ALCF Staff Help Introduce Girls to Science and Engineering

ALCF staff

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On Feb. 20, Argonne National Laboratory hosted its 14th annual Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day to give eighth-grade girls an opportunity to learn about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers.

At the event, 79 girls from across the Chicago area received personal contact with women engineers and scientists as they were introduced to STEM careers through several activities. The program consisted of lab tours, hands-on experiments, a full day of interaction with mentors, and an engineering expo, where the girls were able to learn about the inner workings of various scientific concepts, including a supercomputer node board from the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility (ALCF).

Several ALCF staff members volunteered to assist with the event, including nuclear engineer Emily Shemon, who served as a mentor for two of the students. She worked closely with the girls throughout the day, encouraging them to ask questions at every turn. For the grand finale, Shemon and her students worked together to build a battery-operated car for the Automotive Tycoon challenge.

“This is the part of the day where the girls really get to use their minds to problem solve,” Shemon said. “I told them not to be intimidated. I work on computers all day and know nothing about mechanical engineering, so I let them know it's more important to ask questions than to automatically know how to do something.”

Lisa Childers, technical development lead at the ALCF, also mentored two girls at the event. She said they had a great time touring the Advanced Photo Source, making a polymer with glue and borax called “gak,” and then capping off the day building and racing their own car.

“Our team may not have had the fastest time, but we were still winners,” Childers said. “I was delighted to be a part of IGED. As a software developer with 31 years of experience, I am strongly committed to encouraging girls to enter science and technology fields. Mentoring is critical to helping girls see that they can succeed in technical fields.”

Jini Ramprakash and Laural Briggs of the ALCF also helped make event possible as members of the IGED organizing committee.

In addition to educating the eighth graders about possible career paths, IGED connects the students with potential role models who show them the excitement of science and engineering jobs firsthand.

“Many of the participants do not have close family members with science and engineering careers, much less know any women in the STEM field,” Shemon said. “It's really important to show them how many successful women there are in this field so we can get them thinking about engineering as a realistic career.”