Weber State University transformed from college campus to STEM central on March 31, while over 400 high school girls, volunteers and mentors flooded the campus for the first ever all-female STEM conference: SheTech.
“Women Tech Council created SheTech to activate, inspire and engage girls in STEM careers,” Sara Jones, COO of Women Tech Council, said.
In the Tech Zone, representatives from STEM-based companies hosted interactive booths that attendees could participate in, including booths on robotics and aerodynamics.
“SheTech exceeded my expectations,” Faith Satterthwaite, computer science professor at WSU, said. “We not only had over 400 girls register for the event — the excited energy of these girls throughout the day was like nothing I’ve ever felt.”
Elizabeth Adams, volunteer and computer science major at WSU, said that she was impressed by the amount of girls who attended and are interested in STEM.
Adams said she didn’t consider a career in STEM until later in life, because STEM was something she never grew up thinking she could do.
“In the field, I’ve noticed there is a bit of gender bias,” Adams said. “So it’s exciting to see these ladies getting their faces out there.”
Another volunteer and computer science major at WSU, Suzana Jensen, said that she volunteered for the event to help girls understand what STEM is before they decide on their college major or career.
Jensen said she has faced challenges from men while being a woman in STEM.
“They believe we don’t have the capacity to learn,” Jensen said. “But that’s not true, we can learn whatever. We have exactly the same capacity they do.”
Dana Dellinger, director of the Center for Technology Outreach, said that EAST was proud to bring business, government and education together in order to support and encourage girls in northern Utah who might be interested in STEM.
“Our enrollment at WSU is really low for women in our engineering and technology majors,” Dellinger said. “Especially considering that women make up over 50 percent of WSU graduates.”
Dellinger said that EAST is currently working to increase the number of women in these programs through outreach events like SheTech.
After spending the morning in classes and the Tech Zone, participants finished off the day with the Tech Challenge. The challenge was a group exercise that allowed eight girls to pair with one mentor and use critical thinking skills to solve a problem.
This year’s challenge tasked the girls with designing the shopping experience of the future. With a list of requirements to follow, including that the shopping center must be open 24/7 and that delivery must only take 24 hours, the girls began to brainstorm and design.
Mentors at each table helped to encourage the girls and serve as a reference, but ultimately it was up to the girls alone to create the solution.
“Our community really cares about supporting the rising generation and wants them to succeed,” Dellinger said. “It makes bringing opportunities like SheTech to WSU an encouraging and happy experience.”
While the event only lasted a day, girls interested in STEM can continue to visit the SheTech website to learn about future opportunities in STEM, according to Jones.
“There was such an outpouring of help and support for our event. I love how much people want to help and get involved,” Satterthwaite said. “Our community is amazing. We definitely have the support for another event like this or one even bigger.”