Prince William County middle school students recently attended the region’s first Girls Going Tech event, where they learned about the fields of science, technology, engineering and math, referred to altogether as STEM.
Around 50 girls from Marstellar and Rippon middle schools attended the event, which was hosted at the Hylton Performing Arts Center at George Mason University’s Manassas campus on Nov. 15.
The initiative was hosted by the Micron Foundation, which leads Girls Going Tech annually in other locations, in partnership with the Prince William County Public Schools’ Supporting Partnerships and Resources for Kids program, also called SPARK.
Prince William County Superintendent of Schools LaTanya McDade spoke to the group of students about the importance of growing opportunities for girls and women in STEM.
“It’s time to disrupt tradition and ensure women have opportunities and pathways in STEM,” she said, noting that women make up only 34% of the workforce in STEM.
When that data is disaggregated and broken down by background, she said, the number is even less for minority women.
McDade emphasized Prince William County Public Schools wants to bring more events such as this one to its students.
“Our mission is clear: to ignite the spark of inspiration in the next generation of women in STEM,” McDade said.
Following opening remarks, students broke out into groups to rotate through two activities.
The first activity was hosted by Kelly Knight, a professor of forensic science at George Mason University. Students acted as crime scene investigators, gathering evidence and analyzing before comparing results to find the guilty suspect.
The second activity was engineering-based; students built power circuits and scribble bots with the help and guidance of Micron volunteers.
Dawn Davis, executive director of SPARK, told InsideNoVa her organization is looking to expand the Girls Going Tech event in Northern Virginia.
Davis also said SPARK is hoping to bring the Chip STEM camp that Micron hosts to Prince William County. The day camp is filled with hands-on STEM activities related to semiconductor manufacturing and engineering.
Prince William County students would go to the camp held at Norfolk State, Davis said.