More than 240 girls from around the region participated in the day-long workshop that included hands-on activities in robotics, chemistry, coastal engineering, sports medicine, applied math, physics and more.
The USNA STEM Center is focused on addressing an urgent national need for more young people to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
“The academy has made an investment in STEM, not only to support the midshipmen, the majors and the technical fleet that they’ll face, but also because they realize it’s the best way to bring opportunity to underserved populations,” said mechanical engineering Professor Angela Moran, director of the STEM Center for Education and Outreach. “A great way to do it is through STEM outreach, because you’re interacting with kids at their level and showing them that the lessons that they learn in the classroom have real-world applications and that scientists and engineers can make the world a better place.”
The Girls-Only STEM Workshop is an inclusive event to help young girls break the stigma that STEM is a male-only field of study. By bringing these young girls together and introducing them to STEM and women who have chosen STEM as a profession, they are learning there are no boundaries when it comes to pursuing their dreams.
Diversification is key to success in any field of study. This event is focused on creating gender-diversity in the field of STEM.
“Women are one of the underrepresented groups in STEM, and it’s important to have a diversified workforce to approach problems in different ways to achieve the best results,” said chemistry Professor Sarah Durkin, assistant director of the STEM Center for Education and Outreach. “We want to encourage young women to pursue their interests and not be deterred by stereotypes that may have existed in the past.”
The workshop consisted of hour-long modules testing various student-built designs. Midshipmen and faculty oversaw and demonstrated hands-on projects that showcased robotic programming, meteorology, coastal engineering and more. For Midshipman 3rd Class Ashanti Curry, it was an opportunity to get girls excited about a profession she loves.
“I’ve always loved science, and I want other little girls to love science, too,” said Curry. “When I was younger, STEM wasn’t as stressed with young girls as it is now, and I think we’ve done a great job at seeing the problem and creating events like this to show them that they can do it. We try to teach girls that it’s a growing field in our country and we need them to be engaged.”
For a lot of these girls, STEM isn’t a field of study that they recognize as something they can do. Events like this are often just what’s needed to open their eyes to the possibility of a future in STEM.
“I went to similar STEM camp, and it really opened my eyes to doing STEM as a career,” said Midshipman 2nd Class Mary Campbell. “I know that if I hadn’t been introduced to STEM early, I might not have considered it an option, and I might not be here.”
Midshipman 2nd Class Michelle Tran grew up in a household where STEM was important. As a daughter of an engineer, she was introduced to STEM at an early age, and it helped her decide that a profession in STEM was what she would choose to pursue. For girls who don’t grow up around STEM, events like this are important to stimulate interest and understanding, she said.
“Inspiration starts really early, and I think STEM events like this create that inspiration as early as possible,” said Tran. “By bringing middle school-aged girls together at events like these, they see girls like them doing STEM. The interaction at the very least will help promote a general interest in science and technology.”
USNA is dedicated to bringing STEM to the community. The STEM Center for Education and Outreach hosts about 70 major STEM events annually either at the academy or offsite. This event was sponsored by the Office of Naval Research, the Naval Academy Foundation, and the Northrop Grumman Foundation.