This past Saturday (Apr. 23), Notre Dame hosted the 19th annual Expanding Your Horizons (EYH) career conference for middle school girls that focused on activities in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Throughout the conference, students had the opportunity to collaborate and learn from female role models working in STEM fields. This exposure provides a gateway for empowering girls to see themselves as future participants in STEM and STEM-related careers.
Two hundred and forty-four participants from Indiana, Michigan, and Illinois were in attendance during this year’s event. The conference consisted of a college information session where the students were given the opportunity to participate in a Q&A with current Notre Dame students. This was followed by workshops on a variety of topics such as animal science, business, chemistry, and engineering. Each student attended three workshops of their choice.
One of the workshops titled, “Bridges Over Troubled Waters,” was an engineering workshop where the girls worked on teams to design and build model bridges out of toothpicks and marshmallows. Each student presented their designs and justified their construction decisions, like where they chose to use larger instead of smaller marshmallows as bridge supports.
“My first engineering design project in high school helped me decide that I was definitely interested in engineering, so I hope that the girls were inspired to consider a career in engineering,” said Mindy Lake, third year graduate student in the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering.
Both Clare Scantling and Grace Magro, sophomore and junior science pre-professional majors, respectively, were volunteering their time at the event because of their desire to share their experiences as women in STEM fields.
“I’m very grateful of the experience I’ve had as a STEM major here at Notre Dame; I want to be able to share my experience with others and be able to tell them that this is awesome as a field,” said Scantling.
The EYH Network began with an informal group of women scientists and educators in the San Francisco Bay Area who were concerned about low female participation in math courses. Members of the group began planning coordinated efforts to strengthen their individual programs. Currently, there are more than 80 conferences in the U.S., Europe, and Asia with up to 25,000 girls attending each year.
“My high school English teacher told me I should be an engineer, and I had no idea what engineering was. I feel like if I was exposed to this at an early age I would have had a better path or direction; this just exposes them to several career opportunities,” said Samantha Atkins, a fourth-year bioengineering graduate student and coordinator of the event.
Students who are interested in volunteering with EYH next year are encouraged to contact firstname.lastname@example.org.