Girl Scouts Explore Future Career Opportunities in Science and Technology
Not all structures share the same strength. Mechanical engineering student Lana Bonotan Agot and other members from the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), San Francisco State University (SFSU), demonstrated that a paper table made of triangular structures holds more weight than a paper table that is cube shaped. And the same is true of similar structures made of gum drops and toothpicks.
"Engineering is fun. It’s about learning an unlimited number of solutions to structural problems," said Agot, who also is president of the SWE student chapter. She was one of more than 150 science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) professionals and college students who came to NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., as part of the Girl Scouts of Northern California’s annual Career Exploration Day. Together, they turned the NASA Conference and Training Center into a one-stop shop for more than 1,000 Girl Scouts who learned about everything from starfish to fiber optics to computer systems.
Participants in grades 6 to 12 also attended panel sessions to hear from outstanding women regarding such careers as electrical and electronics engineering, astrobiology and atmospheric sciences.
The Career Exploration Day was sponsored by Girls Go Tech, a program of the Girl Scouts of Northern California designed to attract girls to science-related fields traditionally dominated by men.
"This event exposes girls of all ages to a variety of fields in science, technology, engineering and math. Participating in activities alongside women who are currently working in these fields, opens up many possible career options for the girls," said Jean Fahy, program director for Girls Go Tech.
Throughout the center, interactive exhibits and hands-on activities were available for curious young minds to possess, manipulate and conquer. In one corner, girls learned about diffraction of optics, wave-guide optics and optical illusion.
"We used gelatin to make long, flexible strips, we called wave-guides. Girls learned that a beam of light will follow the gelatin’s shape," said Rebecca Schaevitz, a doctorate student from the Stanford University, Palo Alto, Calif., Optical Society of America. One Girl Scout experimented by shining a red-laser beam through individual gelatin strips lined up to form a half-circle.
"The pink light goes all the way through them," she explained.
In another corner, an electrical engineer was showing a troop of girls the inside of a computer, including circuits, memory, fan, connecting wires and the mother board. She patiently identified each part and explained what it does to make the computer work.
Fifth grader Hailey Finnecy thought the exhibits were "awesome."
"I liked the Marine Life exhibit the best. I got to pet a starfish," she exclaimed.
By Hailey's side was her mother, Christina Benavides, the co-chair of Ames' Women's Influencing Network (WIN), a co-sponsor of the Career Exploration Day.
"It’s expected that our organization works to inspire women, but it’s important to start early. We want to encourage these girls to consider careers in non-traditional fields," she said.
Corporate sponsors also participated in the days' events. Jan Cushman, a Chevron toxicologist, taught her curiosity seekers that chemicals make up everything around us. By spinning a wheel, they selected one of eight substances that could be a pesticide, pollutant in the air or chemicals in our water.
"Did you know that we have fluoride in our water? It’s there to prevent tooth decay, but too much can cause bone deformity," she explained.
Toxicologists ensure that people are not endangering their health or the environment with products and by-products of modern life, she added.
"I have been doing this since the Girl Scouts started sponsoring Career Exploration Day. It’s something I do to help girls experience a greater variety of career options, make them aware of what is out there, and give them more opportunity to find satisfying and rewarding careers," said Wendy Holforty, a research scientist at Ames and dedicated educator of young women.
To see a video of the Girl Scout 2011 Career Exploration Day, visit:
For more information about NASA Ames, visit:
For more information about Ames' Women’s Influence Network (WIN), visit:
For more information about the Girl Scouts of Northern California, visit:
Ruth Dasso Marlaire
Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.