By Mark Fitton The Tribune-Star, Terre Haute, Ind.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) "Expanding Your Horizons" is a national program to inspire girls to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Girls and science go together.
Just ask the nearly 80 middle school girls attending the Expanding Your Horizons conference on Saturday at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.
Mea Targett, a West Vigo sixth-grader, has her eye on someday being a chemical engineer or an astronaut -- or both.
"I have always loved chemistry," Mea said. "And, I don't know, I've just always liked taking things apart and putting them back together. If you give me a pen, you can almost guarantee you'll see me taking it apart in a few seconds."
Valentina Andrade, a Honey Creek sixth-grader, agreed.
"I think science is really fun," Valentina said. "I like to understand how things work because then I can kind of get a grasp of what they're really like."
Expanding Your Horizons is a national program, and The Woods has been involved for more than a decade, said Janet Clark, a chemist and the college's vice president for academic and student affairs. The idea is to let girls know they have options when it comes to careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Especially important, Clark said, is having girls "see it in action, see it in practice. All of our workshops today are presented by local women in the STEM fields."
The middle-school years are when American young people really start to think about what they might like to do for a living, and seeing, interacting with and having access to women in the sciences and mathematics can make an impression.
All nine of Saturday's workshops were led by women from SMWC and South Vermillion High School. Those workshops included robotics, how digestion works in horses, sports injury, aspects of blood pressure and more.
Morgan Dezsi, a South Vermillion Middle School science teacher, led sessions of "It's O.K. to be Basic: Acids and Bases in our Everyday Lives."
The girls used both pH strips and pH probes to test a number of drinks including included water, chocolate milk, orange juice, Peace Tea, Coke, Mountain Dew and a Java Monster latte.
The girls determined the acidity of each drink using the two methods, plotted them on vertical and horizontal scale and discussed what they'd found and what those findings meant.
The session was designed with a few things in mind, said Dezsi, including using different test instruments, graphing and comparing the results and -- not least -- recognizing the health benefits and drawbacks of drinks varying in acidity.
Plus, Dezsi said, there's the matter of making good choices.
"Kids tend to think of being healthy or being strong as the result of big, important decisions," she said. "There are those, but there are also the little decisions we make every day that matter, too."
So if a student chooses, for instance, to change one serving per day of Mountain Dew to a serving of water, that's a win, she said.
Duke Energy was the sponsor of the 12 annual conference. The keynote speaker was Emily Wood, executive director of the Indiana Wildlife Federation, a lifelong Hoosier and originally from Terre Haute.
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