160 students participate in the first-ever ‘GPS Girls STEMpowered’
Gilbert Public Schools is inspiring the next generation of women leaders to go out and pursue science, technology, engineering and math. The district held its first-ever ‘GPS Girls STEMpowered’ event. It was hosted by the Technology Services department and supported by the Gilbert Education Foundation. About 160 young girls, in grades 5-12, were invited to participate in the day-long activities, where they collaborated in small groups to build a 16-hole mini golf course.
“If you can connect with these young ladies early and get them excited about STEM, technology and computer science, then they will look for those things when they get older,” said Shawn Abele, the Instructional Technology Coordinator for the district.
The girls were divided up into 16 teams and provided with supplies as well as a Google Chromebook for computer programming. Together, they were instructed to design and build their portion of the course using the tools available. They were also required to come up with a team name and logo, which they had to do using some graphic design skills.
“They’re totally responsible for all of it,” Abele said.
Not only did the project provide the girls with an opportunity to stretch their imaginations and abilities, but it also allowed them a chance to meet their goals while making new friends. Abele believes incorporating girls of all ages was key to the event’s success.
“Our younger students are able to see that there is a place for them to go as they get older. We have STEM classes in junior high schools. Our junior high students are able to see they can do this in high school, and our high school girls are able to have some leadership with our younger kids,” she said.
According to statistics, fewer women work in STEM-related industries like computer science and engineering. In fact, Code.org® found that in Arizona there are more than 16,000 open computing jobs. Some research suggests that fewer women are pursuing these types of careers due to lack of exposure and/or lack of interest. ‘GPS Girls STEMpowered’ aimed to tackle both issues by having an engaging, creative and exciting format.
“Hopefully, we’ll be able to learn from this and bring it to more of our girls somehow, or they might get excited about it and find ways to bring it back to their schools. That’s how you start to reach more and more,” Abele said.