California State University, Long Beach
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STEM Conference Set For Nov. 8

Published: November 3, 2014

A Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) conference for girls in grades 5-9 arrives on campus on Saturday, Nov. 8, from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Sponsored by CSULB’s College of Engineering and Departments of Science Education and Physics and Astronomy as well as the educational firm Upper Hand to College, the conference will offer a motivational day, geared toward increasing the number of women in the STEM fields.

College of Engineering Dean Forouzan Golshani praised the conference as a chance to introduce young girls to careers in the STEM field.

“While women make up nearly 50 percent of the U.S. workforce, they hold less than 25 percent of the jobs in STEM,” he said. “Furthermore, women account for only 20 percent of the bachelor’s degrees in engineering, computer science and physics.”

Director of Outreach and Recruitment for the College of Engineering Saba Yohannes-Reda also praised the conference.

“We collaborate with other departments and off-campus communities of young women seeking careers in science, technology, engineering and math,” said Reda. “I believe few girls are pursuing careers STEM fields because they are unaware of the opportunities available. They’ll learn about the variety of career opportunities in the STEM fields and meet and connect with female engineers and scientists.”

Activities will include hands-activities and seminars, learning the importance of taking classes in science, math and technology at the middle- and high-school levels and discovering the knowledge and understanding that women have the capability to be successful in STEM.

Each student will attend two workshops of their choice including Cosmetic Chemistry; Wearable Electronics; Crime Scene Investigation; Fun, Science and Root Beer; Campus Tour; To Sink or Float (Underwater Vehicle Design); The Newton Car Race; Physics is Music to Our Ears; and Spaghetti Marshmallow Bridge. Upon completion of the day’s workshops, participants will earn a certificate of participation.

The conference also will feature a separate track of workshops for parents, teachers and counselors where participants will learn why a STEM education is especially valuable for girls and how to best prepare girls for a STEM education in high school and college.

“The important issue for these young girls is their ability to identify with something that means success to them,” said Golshani. “A role model can be very influential. We are fortunate to offer access to a large group of very successful women. In a related event, the young women heard an executive who flew to the meeting in her own jet. There are women in positions of influence with CSULB’s professional partners. They represent great resources and they have responded every time we ask them to do something for the college such as talking to these young women.”

Golshani believes events like these demonstrate the College of Engineering’s eagerness to get out the message to young girls everywhere and their families.

“We try to influence both students and their families,” he said. “It is good to reach these girls when they are so young. What a student does in middle school defines to a great extent what she/he will do in high school and subsequently in college. If they have a mindset that tells them they can be whatever they want to be, then imagining themselves as successful engineers would be more of a norm.”

Reda pointed out that the Nov. 8 conference is only the latest in an ongoing series.

“In October, the Women Engineers @ The Beach Program invited 200 girls from local schools to campus,” she recalled. “The girls had fun participating in many workshops which included building a battery from household materials and experimenting on the effects of high-lift systems for airplane design. These girls are smart and capable but the lack exposure and don’t know any role models to understand what it means to be an engineer.”

“But the more the girls become familiar with CSULB’s College of Engineering female faculty and female students, the more they realize a STEM degree is a viable option for them too,” she added. “We want to highlight the fact that engineering does not have to be a male-dominated profession any more. This is a booming industry. Why not take advantage? We want them to know that being an engineer means more than digging in the dirt. We want them to know that, at the end of the day, engineers work to make the world a better place.”

Reda pointed with pride to a variety of success stories associated with the conference. “I recall one woman engineering major who remembered attending a conference like this one when she was 10 years old,” Reda said. “Similarly, another female engineering student currently in her fourth year mentioned visiting CSULB for a similar conference when she attended the fifth grade at Compton Middle School. It was her first college visit and she was shocked. Girls who come from a low socio-economic status often are the first generation in their families to go to college. They need to see they can do it.”

Golshani hopes the young visitors leave the campus with a sense of fun. “Engineering is a fun discipline,” he said. “It is important that these girls understand engineering is about solving problems. If we can help these young girls understand that, it will represent a major step ahead as far as career decisions are concerned.”