By Jennifer Moriarty.
Student reporter Jennifer Moriarty highlights exciting experiences at local STEM educational event.
The Girls In Technology (GIT) ‘Sharing Our Success’ event held on November 10, 2015 was attended by over 100 girls from the DC metro area whose grades ranged from 4th to 12th. The girls all came for the same purpose: to learn more about career options available in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields.
The girls participated in a networking a reception with women in (STEM) fields where hors d’oeuvres and other refreshments were served as well as a Lego Robotics collaboration session. After the networking reception, the girls got to experience STEM demonstrations from Microsoft, FIRST, Building Momentum, Wanted Analytics, XBots, Tech Innovations, Students4STEM, Key Strokes, and Cortona Academy. The event ended with a panel discussion by four esteemed women in the technology field.
The big question on everyone’s mind: which station to visit first? One exhibit that peaked my interest was FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), an organization aimed at inspiring young people to become science and technology leaders. There are many different levels to FIRST. Jr. FIRST Lego League is the first level. The students in this group range from grades K-3 (ages 6-9). This level introduces the youngest students to the world of technology. They design and build challenge solutions using LEGO Education Simple & Motorized Mechanisms. FIRST Lego League is the second level. The students in this group range from grades 4-8 (ages 9-14). It introduces younger students to real-world engineering with LEGO-based robots. They design, build, and program robots using LEGO Mindstorms technology and participate in tournaments and celebrations. FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) is the third level. This level is for high school students. In this level, students participate in robotic competitions. In addition to designing, building, and programing robots, they can also earn a place in the World Championship and can qualify for close to $7 million in college scholarships. FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) is the fourth and final level. The level is also for high school students. They build and compete with a robot they design. FRC participants can earn a place in the championship and qualify for close to $10 million in college scholarships.
The students at the FIRST exhibit were very enthusiastic about their work. They had two examples of completed robotics projects. The first example was a robot that could pick up a ball and put it in a plastic cylinder. This robot was controlled by an Xbox controller. The second example was a much bigger robot that could pick up two trash bins at the same time. This robot was controlled by programming. It was very impressive to watch the robots in action.
I also visited the Selfie on the Wall station. As suggested in the title, this exhibit is a “mirror” that takes your picture. The makers of this product used the Arduino system. To produce this, a “double sided mirror” was used. Film was placed over the top of a sheet of glass, which created the effect of a mirror. A camera was placed behind the mirror. The Arduino was hooked up to the camera, and whenever the button on the Arduino was pressed, a picture was taken. The creators used Java Script to program the Arduino, but other programs may be used.
The 3D printing demos by Tech Innovations and Building Momentum were very cool. At Building Momentum’s station, the representative displayed a homemade 3D printer made out of wood and electronics. 3D printers are becoming a popular technology. Stick figure men were printed as examples of the use of the 3D printers and were given away as souvenirs. Building Momentum’s station also featured LED technology. The girls created an array of colorful LED earrings.
The information presented at the various stations was so interesting that it was very easy to get wrapped up at one station. Tara, a 6th grader from Crossfield Elementary, said her favorite experiences were the FIRST’s robot station and Building Momentum station, where she was able to make a pair of LED earrings. Lucy, a 9th grader from Woodson High School, said her favorite experiences were seeing how 3D printers make a 3D digital copy of an object and the LEGO collaboration and building session. When asked which area of STEM she was most interested in, Lucy said she would like to pursue a career as a robotics engineer.
The final session was the panel discussion. It included four women executives in the technology field: Debbie Granberry, an Industry General Manager who works with the Government Operations Division at CSC and serves Federal Government Civilian agencies; Bronwen Kennedy, a lead Creative Director and founder of Spring13, a marketing agency designed to streamline creative processes for national and global clients including FedEx, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Weight Watchers, and Time-Warner; Mayra Ruiz-McPherson, a Senior Digital Strategist who serves as the New Media Manager at The Source of Learning as well as the Director of Digital Marketing at QBurst Technologies; and Sophia Ahmed, a Managements Consulting Analyst at Accenture.
The panel discussion was very informative. I learned that with today’s technology, people don’t always have to be at the office to get their jobs done. There are pros and cons that come with this. The pros are that you can communicate and collaborate by using social, mobile, email and digital technology from almost anywhere. The cons are that when communicating primarily using these technologies, you can’t always tell someone’s body language, facial expression and tone, so their thoughts might not get across as intended.
There were a few questions from the students on how to choose a career path and find the right job. The panelists encouraged the girls to nurture their interest in STEM fields through classroom courses, STEM camps and workshops, internships, job shadowing, and STEM-related programs like GIT ‘Sharing Our Success’. They said that “you will not always find the right job on the first try” and encouraged the girls to explore different career options until they find the right fit.
Technology will always surround us; it is incorporated into just about everything we do. It is very important to attend events like this, so you can get a taste of what is out there and how you can play a role in driving technology innovation through a career in STEM fields.