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Miami Programs Offer Ideas to Get Girls Involved with STEM

Through Girl Scout badges, science electives, makerspaces, hands-on workshops, after-school and summer programs, several Miami-area organizations are introducing girls to STEM subjects at a young age.

(TNS) — In 1970, pioneer scientist Janet Rowley began photographing the chromosomes of leukemia patients through a fluorescence microscope. She was determined to see if there were genetic abnormalities in common.

Dedicated, relentless, and with little peer support, she took the photos home and carefully examined them on her kitchen table. She told her children, who said she was just “playing with paper dolls,” not to sneeze.

Rowley discovered translocations of chromosomes, and changed leukemia diagnosis and treatment forever. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.

A lot has happened for girls who want to be scientists, engineers and inventors since then.


Now, 145 Girl Scout STEM Badges stand ready to be earned. They include Automotive Design and Engineering starting in kindergarten and first grade to Space Science Expert and Website Design at the senior level in 9 and 10th grades. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“Though not every girl will want to pursue a career in STEM, every girl should have the chance to explore STEM, get comfortable with those concepts and skills, and learn how they apply to a wide variety of interesting fields,” said Lori Ross, chief mission delivery officer of Girl Scouts of Tropical Florida.

“Girl Scouts provides this opportunity through focused STEM activities from robotics and cybersecurity to astronomy and mechanical engineering. Girl Scouts in Miami Dade and Monroe counties can join the GSTF astronomy club, learn about how supply chain works, contribute to Citizen Science research and so much more.”

The organization recently hosted G.I.R.L. FEST at Pinecrest Gardens to kick off the celebration of its centennial year. It partnered with AstraFemina, a nonprofit based in Houston, that is also inspiring today’s girls to be tomorrow’s STEM stars.


One star is Victoria Garcia, a 2001 graduate of Palmer Trinity School. Born deaf, Garcia is one of the few women on the team of engineers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama.

She learned to read lips at an early age and worked to excel in school. She loved problem-solving and turned it into her career.

Her current work is on NASA’s SLS rocket and the Orion spacecraft set to launch as part of Artemis I. The historic un-crewed flight test of the Orion spacecraft will fly farther than any has ever flown, and orbit the Moon.

“We did not have ‘STEM’ specific classes back in the late ‘90s. However, I did take six math classes and five science classes during my four years of high school,” Garcia said. “I would opt to take extra math/science classes instead of an elective class. That helped give me credits for college, and gave me reassurance that I wanted to go into a STEM-related field.

“When I started thinking about going into computer science/mechanical engineering, I felt really intimidated because so many of my peers talked about how they grew up building or fixing things with their dad, and they seemed to have so much more experience than me already.”

Garcia said exposure is critical to learning.

“It is so important for everyone to understand how STEM can affect our lives, so that no matter what paths we take in life, we can take advantage of STEM skills to make an idea better, perform a job better, or spark innovation.

“Many folks think that STEM is really just mainly for engineers or scientists, but I encourage you to open your mind to all the possible ways we can use STEM-related skills for other kinds of work, even for artistic careers!”


That exposure is happening at Fab Lab Miami, funded by The Children’s Trust. Launched in September 2020, the maker-driven program centers on activities so girls can play, create, learn, mentor and invent.

They design and make objects of personal interest through 3D printing, vinyl cutting, laser cutting, coding, robotics, electronics, science experiments, and design software.

”The Children’s Trust strives to nurture the best in children by providing them with the latest tools for learning and creating,” said James Haj, president and CEO of The Children’s Trust. ”We are grateful for programs like Fab Lab Miami, which provide children — especially girls — with the opportunity to develop skills in science, technology and engineering, traditionally fields dominated by men.”

Also funded by the Key Biscayne Community Foundation, Fab Lab Miami partners with schools, community centers and after-school programs including Girl Power, Belafonte TACOLCY Center, and Miami Dade College - Curious Minds STEM Academy.


The mission at Manifezt Foundation, another STEM-strong group, began in 2015 with a focus on hands-on learning through workshops in underserved Miami-Dade communities.

“We want to make STEM education exciting, accessible, and available to all,” said Reggie Rego, Manifezt, chief operating officer and director of life sciences.

“The events are full of smiles and moments of clarity and discovery. The recent pandemic has left many of our events with fewer students,” he said. “With more children attending, we will be able to fulfill the goal of enriching future leaders in STEM to their full potential and ability to contribute to our continually transforming society.”

Manifezt Foundation hosts events every other Saturday at 10:30 a.m. until Dec. 3. The most recent was at Larcenia J. Bullard Plaza.


Girl Power is the active group that supports girls’ empowerment through STEAM. It was established in 2000 by the World Literacy Crusade of Florida, and Thema Campbell is the president and CEO. The “A” in STEAM stands for art.

Through after-school and summer programs, Girl Power encourages girls to “build confidence, competence, and pride within themselves.”

Girl Power Summer STEAM Workforce Training Camp, for middle school girls from low-income families, teaches entrepreneurship skills, finances, and exposure to STEM career fields.

At the recent Girl Scout G.I.R.L. FEST, girls flocked to the area of STEM experiments and projects.

Chelsea Wilkerson, CEO of Girl Scouts of Tropical Florida, said the organization is in a unique position to “prepare girls and introduce them to all kinds of careers and has centered on STEM in many programs.”

Recently, “we hosted G.I.R.L. FEST and our 500-plus attendees heard from and got to interact with USAF Col. Rojan Robatham, a physics major and Girl Scout alum, whose work launches satellites into space,” Wilkerson said.

“As South Florida positions itself as an innovation and STEM hub, we also know there is a need for engineers and scientists to navigate our most pressing environmental concerns — sea level rise, resiliency, water resources and infrastructure,” she added.

NASA engineer Garcia encourages all girls to try STEM classes.

“Think about the different ways that problem solving and critical thinking skills can be incorporated into your desired careers,” she said.

“STEM-related fields may not be up your alley, and that is perfectly fine,” she said, “but don’t let other people make you feel like you are not good enough for it.”


Girl Scouts of Tropical Florida: Serves nearly 3,000 girls in grades K-12 from every ZIP Code across Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. Girl Scouts host G.I.R.L. Fest events and other special days geared toward STEM education and career paths. To volunteer, reconnect, donate, or join, visit

Manifezt Foundation: Hosts STEM workshops at various locations every month. The founders work with “individuals to research, understand, and impact micro and macro causes to influence statistical change in STEM Education and Workforce Placement.” Events include Science in the City, Youth STEM program, and Small Business Incubator. More at

The Children’s Trust: Fab Lab Miami offers youth hands-on opportunities to discover and create using the principles of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, math). It incorporates a “maker-driven” approach to encourage girls in their future career choices. Launched in September 2020, Fab Lab programming in Miami’s urban core focuses on digital fabrication and other STEAM-related activities. Find a program at

Girl Power Rocks: Learn about STEAM after-school programs, Girls’ Choir of Miami, Sister Circle Mentoring, and more girls’ empowerment programs through this group established in 2000 by the World Literacy Crusade of Florida. After school and summer program information ia at

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