Spotlight: Program Gets Girls Excited About STEM, Wins Award

STEM for Girls
At the end of a long day of learning, six STEM for Girls participants joined by a UC Davis student in STEM, stir a large metal bowl that has just had liquid nitrogen poured into it on a table that is covered with the fog produced by the liquid nitrogen. Liquid nitrogen mixed with heavy whipping cream, sugar, and a splash of vanilla; these participants get a chance to make their own ice cream. Photo Credit: Srinu

The STEM for Girls program brings 10–12-year-old girls from Yolo and Sacramento Counties to UC Davis for a fun and immersive day of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). This year it won an Inspiring Programs in STEM Award from Insight Into Diversity magazine and featured in the September issue of the magazine along with 77 other award recipients. 

The program, now in its eighth year, is a joint project of the Women’s Resources and Research Center (WRRC) and the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering. It aims to equip the approximately 60 girls from underrepresented groups who participate each year with the confidence to pursue their interest in a STEM field. 

STEM for Girls 1
Two STEM for Girls participants, wearing their STEM for Girls shirts, look up at a flying toy they threw into the air during a workshop on constructing Snap Circuits.
Photo Credit: Srinu

Over the course of their day on campus, the girls learn about math, food science, chemistry and more in workshops, demonstrations, lab tours and hands-on activities such as building electrical circuits. Volunteers, many of them UC Davis undergraduate and graduate students in STEM, answer questions and provide mentorship. “There is something profound and beautiful about being able to witness the growth of our UC Davis scholars and the growth of the youth we bring to campus happening at the same time,” said Sara Blair-Medeiros, assistant director of outreach at the WRRC. “The excitement of all those involved makes the months of planning the committee does worth it.”

STEM for Girls 2
During a tour to the UC Davis Plant Conservatory, four STEM for Girls participants get an opportunity to look at, touch and learn about one of the many amazing plants growing in the greenhouses.
Photo Credit: Srinu

Historically, the STEM fields have been stereotyped as “male spaces.” This belief has seeded implicit biases that dissuade girls and women and those with marginalized gender identities from entering these fields. STEM for Girls aims to help girls and those with marginalized gender identities imagine themselves in college and in STEM. “We get to positively impact young lives in wonderful ways,” said Blair-Medeiros, “by giving young people the keys to open their own minds and discover they are full of all the best things and the possibilities are endless.”   

STEM for Girls 3
The entire 2018 STEM for Girls group (Organizers, Team Leaders, Volunteers, Chaperones, and Students) sit on the stairs of the UC Davis Student Community Center, where the program is held, holding the STEM for Girls Banner that reads “Welcome to STEM for Girls.” Everyone is wearing their STEM for Girls shirts and are all smiles, even at the end of a long day of learning.
Photo Credit: Lucy Knowles