5th Sharing Our Success Loudoun Event Elevates Curiosity and Inspires Rising Technologists

By Rebecca Padilla.

Event gathers local leaders and organizations to encourage girls to dream big with STEM.

The air was buzzing with excitement as girls from local schools in grades 3-12 arrived on the AOL campus to participate in the fifth “Sharing our Success Loudoun” event.  With over 180 students registered, every seat was filled and the anticipation was tangible as the young technologists eagerly awaited the opportunity to network, check out demonstrations, and listen to a very special speaker.  Organized by a committee of Women in Technology (WIT),  Sharing our Success (SOS) events encourage girls to DREAM BIG WITH STEM and with that in mind, the IMG_4677event was indeed a major success!

The evening kicked off with Norma Henry as the MC and a warm welcome from AOL’s CIO, James Laplaine (Twitter) who lauded opportunities in technology and spoke to his own interest in computer science.  After the welcome, the girls were invited to explore the hands on demonstrations and exhibitions.

Exploring Interactive Demonstrations and Making Connections

Each participant had detailed information on each of the demonstrations and a worksheet to collect the signatures of the exhibitors and professional women attending the event in an effort to emphasize the importance of networking and making connections.  The girls were intrigued by the interactive demonstrations and intently engaged with the following exhibitors.

  • C3 Cyber Club brought information on their fun and exciting technology classes for after-school programs and summer programs.  Their live demonstration of their Digital Sculpting and Minecraft animation classes was a big hit.
  • Team America Rocketry Challenge displayed a few rockets used in the competition for college scholarships.  A number of the girls were enthralled with the mechanics of why one rocket was more successful than the other.
  • The National Air & Space Museum, Udvar-Hazy Center brought a few students from their Explainers program from which high school students are employed to interpret the science and technology behind museum artifacts and inspire learning among museum visitors. Their hands on display helped the girls relate some basic principles of physics to real life.
  • Ashburn Robotics brought their award winning Craft-A-Bot (C.A.B.) robotics kits to teach kinds how they can IMG_4675take part of the Robolution sweeping the country.   As part of the demonstration,  the team brought their 3D printer and recyclable materials to show how kids how to transform simple household materials into low cost robots using the C.A.B. kit.    The pizza bot was a definite hit amongst the participants!
  • The Potomac School brought their Gear Gals team, one of six competitive robotics teams working with VEX/VEX IQ. The Gear Gals showcased their work which won 1st place in programming skills, qualifying them for the State Championships.
  • Northern Virginia Community College sent a few members from the Geospatial Technology Department Humanitarian Mapping/GIS with a demonstration on humanitarian mapping to show some ways of how maps using GIS can be used in a variety of fields and how ArcGIS works.
  • Noldus Information Technology brought a demonstration of two of the most well-known software tools for automation in different research fields.  Providing academic and commercial researches with complete solutions to assist with the automation of research, the girls were fascinated with the software automating tracking of animals in any environment and software automating the analysis of emotions expressed by the human face.  Exhibitors and demos  included the following:
  • STEAMd, Inc. brought lots of information about the non-profit organization with a goal to develop and prepare underserved girls in grades 3-12 in STEM + the arts through educating, career awareness aand mentoring.
  • Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, promoting the preservation and proliferation of healthy wildlife IMG_4660habitats throughout Loudoun County brought a demonstration focusing on the preservation of the Monarch Butterfly.  The high profile international project demonstrated the problem, the conservation efforts, the citizen science role, and the importance of advocacy campaigns.
  • NOVA Enrichment Center 3D Printers and Robotics brought information on workshops in the fields of STEM, Arts, Math and language.  Designed to connect class room knowledge to real world while developing critical and higher order thinking, the girls were able to see some of the opportunities available.
  • Reston Radiology had a busy line with hands on radiology exhibits showing some of the career opportunities in the field.
  • Bricks 4 Kids showcased some of their fun-filled model plans which are designed by engineers and architects to provide an engaging platform that teaches children to learn with LEGO bricks.

Keynote Speaker Marian McKee Recounts Her Journey in STEM  

DrMcKeeDuring the networking and demonstration time, a number of the girls were interviewed in the WIT Virtual Lounge where they answered questions about STEM in their schools and community and their future aspirations in STEM.  (Look out for some of those interviews in the near future on our YouTube channel and our Facebook page!)  After ample time to visit all the exhibits, everyone gathered to listen to the keynote speaker, Marian L. Mckee, Ph.D (LinkedIn) and director of US Development Services at BioReliance.  Dr. McKee gave an entertaining look into her life and the path she traveled to get to her current position, leading a team of some of the brightest scientists that help to ensure drug safety for some of the major pharmaceutical companies.  The talk was certainly relatable for much of the audience as she spoke about everything from her experiences capturing tadpoles as a young girl to her changing her mind multiple times in college about what she wanted to do with her life. Dr. McKee’s breadth of experience from cleaning rat cages to getting patents for her work was fascinating and the girls listened intently to her stories and advice.  In the front row, a number of girls served as reporters to document the event and they received lots of interesting material to report!

Following the talk, the girls were invited to ask questions in a Q&A session where Dr. McKee addressed everything from her views on challenges that young girls interested in STEM face to how she came up with the name for STEM for Her, the non-profit foundation formerly known as Women in Technology Education IMG_4684Foundation.

Experience Scholarships Gives Access to the Real World of STEM

To wrap up the event, some of the participants were awarded extraordinary “experiences” that will further expose them to a world of STEM possibilities.  There were plenty of audible gasps and lots of claps as numerous girls were called forward to claim their prizes of lunch at leading technology companies, tours of a robotic operating room at Loudoun Hospital, Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, a veterinary office and a spot at a conservation camp,  among others.  The opportunity to see STEM in the real world is special opportunity and WIT would like to thank the generous donors for their participation in the program.

Experience Awards

  • Noldus Information Technology:  3 opportunities for students to have lunch with Abbe (PhD neuroscientist and sales manager) and Brooke April (Master’s degree in psychology and account manager) to discuss careers relevant to biological sciences, neuroscience, research, psychology, and more.
  • Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics: 6 opportunities for students to have lunch with former NASA astronaut and Executive Director, Sandy Magnus to discuss the high flying applications of STEM.
  • Reston Radiology: 2 opportunities to have a personalized tour of one of the radiology offices to see some of the options available in the field of radiology.IMG_4674
  • STEAM’d: 40 opportunities for students to receive 90 minute STEAMd session to include assessment to help focus on dream jobs and skills and research opportunities in STEAM.
  • Old Mill Veterinary: 8 opportunities for students to tour the facility and discuss the veterinary field.
  •  CH2M: 5 opportunities for students to have an overview of Computer-Aided Drafting and Design (CADD) as used by large engineering firms for the design of water and wastewater treatment buildings and facilities.
  • Inova Loudoun Hospital: 4 opportunities for students to tour one of the robot surgical rooms at Inova Loudoun Hospital and meet the director of the operating room.  With an up close look at the da Vinci robotic surgical system, the students will have the chance to try to operate the surgical system and get a glimpse of how the surgical department of a hospital works.
  • Loudoun Water: 5 opportunities for students to have an overview of Loudoun Water’s Potomac Water Supply Program (PWSP).  The experience includes an interactive presentation to be held at the PWSP construction trailer and a tour of the water treatment plant construction site.
  • Bricks 4 kids: 20 opportunities for a hands-on workshop reviewing the Architecture and Engineering career fields.  The workshop will use LEGO Bricks to build interactive models of architectural structures and create LEGO designs that are based on engineering concepts.
  • AOL: 8 students will have a Lunch and QA session with the technical IMG_4671leadership team for AOL including CTO James LaPlaine,  Director of Global Applications Operations Christy Abramson,  Director of Infrastructure Development Jade Chu,   and Director of Network and Storage Girija Rao.

Overall, the fifth “Sharing our Success Loudoun” was an invaluable experience for the participants and the event organizers alike.  The GIT committee is especially thankful to AOL for hosting the event and all the companies and agencies that donated to the exhibits and prizes.   We would be remiss if we did not give a sincere thank you to Dr. Marian McKee who delivered an inspiring message that there is a world of possibility open to those that are curious!

The Girls in Technology committee hosts several ‘Sharing Our Success’ events and a mentor protégé program in the DC Metro area each year. Visit http://www.womenintechnology.org/git for upcoming events. If you are interested in serving on an SOS panel, or as a mentor, contact Mary Ann Glueckert at masglueckert@verizon.net or Norma Henry at nrayehenry@gmail.com.


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