- Fort Smith School District
Sisters Study Stem
The first ever STEM Sisters Conference is incoming Southside sophomore Mattie McLellan’s Gold Award project, the highest honor for Girl Scouts. In partnership with the Fort Smith Public Schools, the four-day camp is designed to reach rising 7th-grade girls as they begin their journey through junior high and high school. The purpose is to expose and inspire them to the many STEM fields available as careers. There is a gender gap in STEM-related careers and facilitator Amy Adams, along with Mattie McLellan wants to encourage these girls and let them know that they can achieve what they dream and that nothing or no one should get in their way. They want to introduce them to the different career pathways available at Northside and Southside High School and through the UAFS Western Arkansas Technical Center (WATC) program. They also had an opportunity to visit the 188th Air National Guard, ARCOM, and ABB to learn about STEM careers and opportunities at each of these community leaders.
In preparation for the camp, they were also thinking forward about the opportunities that these students will have as the Career and Technical Center is opened in just a few years. An all-girls conference is important to allow these young women to experience STEM and to allow them to meet and talk with like-minded young women. The participants learned about the high school Unmanned Aerial Machine (UAV) classes and were able to fly drones. Each student was also given the opportunity to type their own blood. They had to solve a “murder” based on DNA evidence that was left behind at a crime scene and they built a structure that could survive a simulated earthquake.
“I really want them to take away more of an understanding that STEM is not just the science problems you do in class. There’s a lot more,” McLellan said. “There’s so many different pathways you can take and all of this is open to you.”
On Friday, keynote speaker Jennifer Law, a NASA flight surgeon, spoke to the girls about why STEM, and women in STEM is so important. “Draw on the strengths of women,” Law said, noting an ability for teamwork and creativity. “There’s a whole world waiting out there for you; lots of possibilities. I know you guys can do anything you set your mind to.”