MARTINSVILLE – After eighteen cumulative weeks of summer camps and ten monthly meetings, over one-hundred local middle school girls have gotten a glimpse into the ways science and technology could reshape their futures. In 2017, the Verizon Foundation chose Patrick Henry Community College as one of five community colleges in the nation to launch a pilot program for training future female leaders in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. For the last two summers, local middle school girls joined the Verizon Innovative Learning summer camp at PHCC to tackle science, math, and coding-based challenges using cutting-edge technology like virtual reality glasses and 3-D printers. Though the summer camp has ended, the girls are not finished learning. On one Saturday every month, they reconvene for field trips or special presentations. For their most recent monthly meeting, girls from both the Patrick County camp and the Martinsville/Henry County camp got a glimpse into the lives of ten local females who are employed in STEM careers. Scientists, manufacturers, statisticians, engineers, and several other ladies spent their Saturday showing the girls by their example how the women of Martinsville and Henry County are unafraid to take the lead in a field that has traditionally been led by men. After meeting the women and hearing about their journeys into the STEM field, the girls took a tour of the Eastman site in Fieldale where all of these inspiring ladies work. "I think that when they are growing up, girls in particular, don't often see or get to know personally female role models in STEM careers," says Eastman's Community Relations Manager Tanya Foreman who helped organized this special outing. "Meeting a professional woman who is finding real solutions to real-world problems through STEM can mean the world to a young lady who just needs that spark of inspiration." After showing the girls around their workplace, the women challenged the campers to demonstrate their engineering skills. Using spaghetti noodles and marshmallows, the girls competed to designed and construct the tallest and most structurally sound spaghetti tower. "They were very excited about the spaghetti challenge," says Foreman. "While it was a lot of fun, we were also able to use the challenge as an opportunity to talk to them about engineering and problem solving. Because, that's what we do - engineers and scientists are just problem solvers. We want them to see that if they love problem solving, they could utilize that strength one day in a fulfilling STEM career." For both Eastman and PHCC, the goal was to inspire and encourage the rising generation of female workers - an aim of Verizon's nationwide innovative learning initiative. By drawing attention to the shortage of the female voices within STEM careers, Verizon hopes girls will begin to see the world of possibilities waiting for them in the STEM fields. "Every time we meet, I see campers make the connection. For some of them, they never believed they could do what these Eastman employees are doing," says Tiffani Underwood, the Director of PHCC's Foundation. "As they meet women who inspire them, they can see themselves one day in their shoes. It is incredible to watch when that light goes off in their eyes and they suddenly realize that they can do anything."
Girls glimpse future possibilities in STEM through Eastman, PHCC, Verizon
Updated: Oct 6, 2018