Arizona Science Center encourages young girls to pursue science careers

Girls from grades fourth through eighth visit the Arizona Science Center to learn about women in STEM on Oct. 12, 2019 (Hailey Rein/DD)

Young girls from all over the valley explored the fields of science and technology at the Arizona Science Center’s Girls in STEM event Saturday.

At the annual event, girls from grades fourth through eighth learned about astronomer Henrietta Leavitt, experimented with green-screen video, and heard from notable speakers, such as Sen. Heather Carter, Sen. Lela Alston, and Rep. Isela Blanc.

“We have been working, as a state, to make sure that you have access to quality education and a chance to pursue your dream,” Carter said during the event. 

Encouraging girls to enter STEM fields has become an emphasized cause, as only 28% of the science and engineering workforce are women, according to the National Science Board. This low rate can especially be seen in engineering, who’s workforce is 15% women.

“It’s the 21st century. I’m an adult woman, and I still hear that women shouldn’t be in STEM,”  Amy Oliver, a public affairs officer for the Center of Astrophysics for Harvard and the Smithsonian, said. “So it’s really critical to have these events to show girls (they) can do this, and it’s okay.” 

The Arizona Science Center aims to bring change to the issue with events like Girls in STEM. 

“As an institution, we feel very strongly about encouraging girls to have the choice to pursue a STEM career, if they would like to,” Alyson Smith, the Vice President of Youth Programs for the Arizona Science Center, said. “We do fourth through eighth grade because research shows that this is a time that is very formative for girls, and a time period where they may lose confidence in the STEM fields.”

The event took place at the Arizona Science Center’s CREATE building, which acts as a space for science, design, and engineering. It houses tools for students to use, including 3D printers and laser cutters.

During the event, girls also learned about the upcoming play at Herberger Theater, Silent Sky, which focuses on astronomer Henrietta Leavitt. 

Leavitt studied stars in a time where women were not allowed to use the telescopes, and her findings were invaluable to the astronomers to follow, according to the American Association of Variable Star Observers

The girls also took part in many STEM-related activities, including learning about light projection and even had a chance to explore the exhibits at the center. 

Events like Girls in STEM aim to inspire the young girls of today to enter a field they may feel discouraged to show interest in. In her speech to the students, Oliver relayed her experiences of being told not to pursue a career in science.

“Your background doesn’t matter, all that matters is your passion,” Oliver said. “No one can tell you what you can and cannot do.”

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