A Message from Falecia Williams, President, West and Downtown Campuses
Boys are better at math and science — it’s one of the most dangerous, deep-seated myths in our educational community. It’s an unfounded, but widely believed notion that prevents female students from reaching their full potential and deters them from pursuing careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), despite many young women’s potential or aptitude for these fields. Fortunately, however, Valencia leaders like Professor of Electronics Engineering Technology Deb Hall are working to reverse this damage by fostering young girls’ interest in STEM and uncovering pathways to STEM careers.
As part of this effort, Deb recently partnered with Shannon Currie, community school director of the Academic Center for Excellence (ACE), to develop two STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) Rocks! workshops for young girls: the ACE Female Fourth Grade Electronics Engineering Workshop on Tuesday, April 17, 2018, and the ACE Female Fifth Grade Energy Management and Controls Technology Workshop on Thursday, May 24, 2018. Both workshops were held for girls who attend the Hughes Branch of the Boys and Girls Club at ACE after school.
“Research shows that in order to successfully gain the interest of females in any type of STEM-related degree, before even middle school one needs to begin planting seeds in the minds of young females about how STEM-related careers help to better the world and are creative and fun and are perfectly suited for women,” Deb explained. “The types of STEM projects that we try to bring into these girls’ classrooms also involve some research into strategies that most effectively engage girls in STEM. These are called the SciGirls Seven. I learned about them by completing a fun SciGirls Educators workshop hosted by the Central Florida Society of Women Engineers and PBS Kids.”
In an effort to plant these seeds using the SciGirls Seven principles, the workshops featured collaborative and creative activities that invited the young females to engage in scientific discovery. The fourth-grade students built flying saucer and fan circuits to learn about polarity’s affect on motors and the flow of electrons within circuits, while the fifth grade students learned about the refrigeration cycle and how to remove heat energy from inside a building to outside.
“The girls looked and sounded like they were having fun to me and my fellow colleagues who helped out,” Deb said. “Based upon the questions that the girls asked throughout the workshop, I think that quite a few light bulbs went off in their minds and hopefully some STEAM Rocks! seeds were planted.”
She added, “As Dr. Steven Covey once said, ‘We must look at the lens through which we see the world, as well as at the world we see, and understand that the lens itself shapes how we interpret the world.’ I see each of these STEAM Rocks! community outreach events analogous to providing these young girls with a virtual hip, new pair of 3D immersive glasses. These new virtual glasses enable them to look out into their current world in order to see their true value and worth and that their future contributions within the world of technology and engineering is limitless and invaluable, and will positively impact the betterment of all of humanity for generations to come. Changing the lens through which our nation’s young females currently see themselves and their powerful contributions within a STEM related-career is essential for opening more doors for women in STEM.”
Further encouraging the girls’ interest in STEM, Deb’s work also showcases pathways to how girls can achieve careers in these fields. One way she accomplishes this, she explains, is by bringing Valencia marketing materials that showcase females participating in STEM-related activities. This way Deb reinforces the idea that women can participate in STEM and identifies one pathway to STEM careers, which is a Valencia education.
In the future, Deb aims to include Valencia students in these efforts — calling upon the Valencia Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers student chapter and students enrolled in the new Energy Management and Controls Technology degree, which launches this upcoming fall.
“Our Valencia students not only just look cool, but they are an absolute inspiration to these young girls who may have never before in their life even considered the possibility of pursuing college, much less becoming a technician or an engineer,” Deb said.