Holmes girls explore STEM careers at conference

By Sophia Schillinger

Approximately 30 ninth grade girls and a couple of eighth grade girls loaded the bus at 6:30 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 27 to travel to Ames for the “Taking the Road Less Traveled” conference.

The first conference was held 30 years ago to introduce high school girls to how many career options there are in the STEM field. Since than 60,000 girls have attended.

Big smiles and muffins greeted all the girls from Holmes Junior High upon arrival. Also, on the chairs were bags with information and little goodies. Once all the girls arrived, two keynote speakers and three women in the STEM fields introduced and persuaded students to think about the many STEM careers. They also encouraged confidence in being a woman in the STEM career.

“The trip made me realize that there is a lot more options for women in STEM careers, and I didn’t know there was such a small amount of women working in these careers,” freshman Allie Grinstead said.

Small is really no understatement when talking about women in these careers. One speaker, who works with air conditioning and heating said she is one of three females in her union, the rest are all guys.

Even those who haven’t decided which career path they are going to follow still found the speakers interesting and informational. Like Grinstead, “I am not really sure what type of career I might be interested in, but now that I learned more about all the different STEM careers, I think I might be interested in a few of them,” she said.

However, some students knew exactly what they want to do in the future and were very interested in STEM, like freshman Gretchen Fixen. “I wanted to go on ‘Taking the Road Less Traveled’ because I have been interested in science ever since I got to junior high. I’ve always known I’d want to pursue a career that has something to do with it.”

Before the conference, science teacher James Duff gave all all the participants a sign in code to enter the website and select the sessions they wanted to be involved in. There were several sessions to choose from, but participants were only able to pick three. At each session, there was a hands-on activity and a Powerpoint to teach participants a little about some of the career options in STEM.

After the first session, everyone sprinted to the macaroni bar for lunch, only to figure out that the food wouldn’t be served for another 10 minutes. But no worries, the 15 hand-sized brownies on the table tied them over. During lunch, activities were done, including a Kahoot.it to learn more about STEM and a Twitter war (the winner is the person who tweets the most educational things) throughout the day.

Once the lunch was scarfed down, all the students went to their second activity that lasted an hour. One of the favored sessions was “Ready Set Build!” Fixen and freshman Abby Balong both had very positive feedback on the session and said they “loved the teamwork.”

“In this session we were split into teams and each given the same material and instructions. Each team had to build a bridge in a certain period of time. After we tested them to see how much weight they could hold. I liked this because it was hands on and fun. We also got to work with people from all over the state,” Balong said.

After the third activity, the girls retreated back to the Great Hall for a final message. The message was very moving and was performed by keynote speaker Jamie Cornelius. One of the activities during the speech had the girls and even some male science teachers write on a piece of paper what was holding them back from succeeding. After, they crumpled up the paper and stepped on it.

Those interested in going on this conference can contact Janice Crow at 515-294-5883 or through email at jcrow@iastate.edu.

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