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by ERIN CLARK and THOMAS PUGH - The Girls Rock STEAM club hosts an event dedicated to helping young girls explore STEAM fields.

Erin Reed (10) stands with her mom, a physical therapist who demonstrated a device designed to help paraplegics, or people without the use of their legs or lower body, walk. photo by BRIDGET ARNOLD

WESTFIELD, Ind. (Feb. 2, 2019) - When walking into the Westfield Intermediate School gym, young girls were immediately greeted with a variety of stations ranging from color theory to electrical engineering to invisible ink. These stations were the centerpieces of the event as the Girls Rock STEAM club engaged the young girls and interested them in the world of STEAM.

“Girls STEAM is like a lot of STEM events except we include art too, so science, technology, art, engineering, mathematics,” co-leader Eilish Kelly (12) said. “It’s a community of older girls who go out and reach out to younger girls and let them explore what the STEAM field offers, and really just kinda showing them that there’s power to it, if you’re interested in it, do it, go for it, you can follow it later through life.”

Through a common interest of sharing their knowledge in STEAM-related fields, the girls set up a large-scale event. The main interest was the booths, which hosted many interesting experiments.

Nursing students Libby Rismiller (12) and Vishalli Lawrence (12) showed participating girls how to complete basic nursing tasks, including taping an ankle and talking blood pressure. photo by BRIDGET ARNOLD

“We came in and we set up all of the activities and tables, and there was a demo in the middle with my mom,” co-leader Erin Reed (10) said. “It was a bunch of tables, we set up and girls came in throughout the couple of hours we had it. They could go to any table they wanted, and it was pretty laid back. We had my mom do two demos at the beginning and the end. There’s this machine that helps paraplegics to walk and she demoed that.”

The event had many interactive displays that kept the attending young minds interested and engaged.

“There were a variety of different types of STEAM things,” Reed said. “There was a medical and nursing area with demos of taping, such as ankles, and there was a geology table with fossils, and learning how they’re made. There was an invisible ink table and lava lamps. There was coding with little robots with bristles, and then Eilish also did a painting table where they could paint their name.”

The abundance of activities and tables were able to successfully showcase many different aspects of the STEAM field. However, with the large amount of tables came a large amount of work.

Elli Anderson (11) talked to students about the chemistry involved in making and using invisible ink.

“The hardest part is probably organization, just trying to get all of the materials we need, and trying to organize everyone, and helping them figure out what they need to get done,” co-leader Bridget Arnold (12) said. “But the best part is getting to see all the girls walk around and experience the science, technology, engineering, arts and math and really enjoy the event.”

While this event may seem similar to others advocating the involvement of girls in the STEAM and STEM fields, Kelly noted that there was one difference that made Girls’ STEAM stand out.

“It’s all student led, that’s what makes it different,” Kelly said. “When I was in intermediate school, I went to this STEM event at a private school that was all set up with professional women coming in. It was a really cool experience, but I think it helps the younger girls see slightly older girls doing it, more like that ‘big sister’ relationship, so that’s a lot of fun.”

For Reed, this ‘big sister’ relationship allowed her to share her passion for engineering, something she believes girls do not see enough of due to the limited amount of women in the field.

“I want to be an engineer,” Reed said. “Unfortunately, you don’t hear a lot about women engineers since only about 14 percent of engineers are women, so having the opportunity to show younger girls that it’s okay to be in STEAM really helped them with what they want to do going forward into their futures as well.”

Riley Parshall (12) utilized the resources of the Idea Farm to help the attendees understand electrical engineering. photo by BRIDGET ARNOLD

Being able to share the inspiration was one of the biggest driving forces for STEAM leaders. Knowing that she was able to make an impact on the lives of the attendees was one of Kelly’s highlights from the event.

“My favorite part was getting to meet all the little girls,” Kelly said. “They’re all so sweet and so cute, and when you pull something out that’s interactive that they can do, their faces just light up, and it’s fun.”

Though the event mostly impacted the young minds attending, it also meant a lot to the older students leading the event.

“I see the most growth in the high school girls who do it,” Arnold said. “We’ve had a lot more people come out and want to join or want to do new or different demonstrations and invite different people. We’re pretty open to letting people do whatever they want.”

With potential for expansion, Arnold hopes to spread the inspiration of Girls STEAM even farther.

“I hope that they continue to do it next year and the following years to come,” Arnold said. “I’m really hopeful that we’ll be able to get more young elementary school girls involved, and maybe open it up to first through eighth grade to have a larger target audience.”

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