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University of Idaho Event Lays Foundation for Girls in STEM

The University of Idaho's Women in Engineering Day last week is meant to introduce high school-aged girls to science, technology, engineering and math careers. The event also gives them a glimpse of on-campus life.

STEM, Careers, Teacher, Students
(TNS) —An organizer behind the University of Idaho's Women in Engineering Day said girls in high school often think they are incapable of achieving a career in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Alyssa Hansten, a UI student studying biological engineering, said Friday's event was meant to break down that wall of self-doubt.

"This event sort of reignites that fire in women that, yes, you can be successful in a STEM career and here's the help to make it happen," she said.

Approximately 40 high school students from around Idaho and eastern Washington came to the UI campus to take part in the event.

This year, the itinerary included a challenge that tasked teams of students with building a minature life raft that was powered by batteries and capable of holding 250 grams of weight. Those rafts were tested at the UI Memorial Gym Swim Center to see if they could stay afloat while supporting bags of rice.

One team included Deary High School's Emily Mottern, Potlatch High School's Izack McNeal, Nezperce High School's Grace Tiegs and Southridge High School Haley Nelson. They admitted their life boat did not perform as they hoped. It mainly spun in circles and toppled over.

But for these students and their peers, the event was about more than succeeding at a challenge. It was about learning skills and getting a taste of what a university campus is like.

Nelson, a junior, said she is at the point in her life where it is time to start touring colleges.

"It seemed like the perfect event to start at," she said about Friday's event.
Kelly Vincent, a science teacher at Deary High School, said it was a chance for her 20 students to get out of the classroom and immerse themselves in the college atmosphere. It is also "a fun day for them to get to meet new people, work on projects, problem solve, and then just learn a little bit about the engineering field," she said.

Vincent hopes this event will make them more confident about pursuing a university education.

"I think a lot of them look at these big universities and get intimidated by it and think that it's something outside of their reach," she said. "And I'm hoping that attending more things like this will make them more comfortable with the thought that it is attainable for them."

Trevor Macduff, a teacher at River's Edge High School in Richland,Wash., also said he wanted his students to step outside their classroom and see what a college environment is like.

"Come to a college campus, you see different ages, different faces, different people, and I want my students to be able to experience, 'Oh, learning isn't just four walls and a desk,' " he said.

He said the focus on encouraging women to get involved in engineering is important because they are often underrepresented in engineering careers.
"Sometimes we need to encourage everybody to recognize that diversity is valuable, necessary and it needs a push," he said. "We have to let our girls know that they're ideas are valuable and important and they can be part of this community."

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©2021 the Moscow-Pullman Daily News (Moscow, Idaho) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.