JACKSON TWP — More than 70 Seneca Valley Middle School students learned firsthand Wednesday that engineering is a profession with opportunities for women as well as men.
The students are a part of an initiative at Seneca Valley called STEM Fems. The acronym stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, subjects that the school has placed an emphasis on in light of the rapidly expanding job market in those careers.
The students assembled Wednesday afternoon in the school cafeteria to watch a presentation by four Carnegie Mellon University students, all females studying computer programming.
The college students gave a Power Point lecture, demonstrations and other hands-on lessons. But most of all, they relayed the message that each girl in the room has the potential to excel in careers historically dominated by men.
Danielle Millett also spoke at the event. As a 2005 graduate of Seneca Valley who now works for Google in Pittsburgh, Millett provided the perfect example of a local resident who followed her dreams and entered into the career of software engineering.
“There are more women in the field now than ever, and that's great news for the field of engineering,” she said. “Today serves as a great chance to show these kids that it's something they can do if they want to.”
Julie Smith is an eighth grade science teacher at the middle school and one of the organizers of the STEM Fems program.
Smith said for years she worked as a meteorologist in cities across the country and almost always was the only woman in the room. Having the chance to get more women into engineering, even at a young age, was an opportunity she couldn't pass up.
“We're giving the girls here a connection, so they can look at these college students and see that they're out there working in their field,” Smith said “It's all about making a connection between their world and the world of science. So far, they seem to be jumping into it.”
Smith said that Wednesday's event was the third so far held for the group. In previous events, the girls learned about the chemistry that goes into making cosmetics.
Principal Andrea Peck said during the event that it's never too late to get students, especially female students, turned on to science.
“This provides exposure and exploration of the sciences,” she said. “Hands on, minds on.”
Hollen Davinsizer is an eighth grade student at the middle school and a participant in the STEM Fems program.
She said chemistry is what interests her most. But that doesn't mean she isn't open and willing to learn about other areas in the sciences.
“It's good to learn more about it,” she said about computer programming, the theme of Wednesday's event. “It's good to know what classes we need to take in high school so we'll be prepared for college.”