By Pam Adams
Journal Star, Peoria, Ill.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Organizers of Caterpillar’s “Introduce a Girl to STEM Day” hope to increase the number of girls interested in studying science, technology, engineering and math, better known as STEM.
Tatum Pond and Ally Sigman, both students at Germantown Hills Middle School, spent Friday “nerding out,” as they called it, at the Caterpillar Inc. Technical Information Center.
Caterpillar’s “Introduce a Girl to STEM Day” was the kind of event where middle-school girls jumped at the chance to play games like “Wheel of Engineering,” the technical version of “Wheel of Fortune.”
While Pond and Sigman called it “nerding out,” organizers aspired to increase the number of girls interested in studying science, technology, engineering and math, better known as STEM.
“We’re really trying to target girls between fifth and eighth grades because that’s when we see a huge drop-off,” said Brooke Hart, a Caterpillar engineer who is part of Cat’s Women’s Initiative Network, which hosted the workshop.
The number of people graduating from college with STEM-related degrees is declining throughout the United States, Hart said, but especially among women. She said women account for only 20 percent of all bachelor of science degrees in engineering.
“Introduce a Girl to STEM Day,” which began in 2013, is also part of Caterpillar’s effort to create a school-to-STEM pipeline of future female Caterpillar employees.
Almost 500 students from 45 schools throughout the area attended the event Thursday or Friday.
As far as Shiva Mittal was concerned, the girls didn’t necessarily have to have the highest grades in math and science to participate.
“I think the interest is more important at this point,” said Mittal, a computer scientist at Cat who works with Girls Who Code, a computer club for teen girls whose mission is to close the gender gap in technology. “The aptitude can come later, but there’s got to be the interest.”