A STEM tradition continues

  • Posted: Monday, January 31, 2022, 1:55 pm
Chemistry demonstration.

A more than 30-year tradition continued recently as Amarillo Women in Science Endeavors (WISE) offered sixth-, seventh-, and eighth- grade girls a chance to experience science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) at a fun, hands-on conference. WISE hosted approximately 300 middle school girls from around the Texas Panhandle for workshops led by women in STEM fields.

Thanks to sponsorships from companies like CNS, attendees received breakfast, lunch, a goodie bag, and participated in three sessions with titles like Surgical Hospital, Bugs are for Girls, Rubber Band Helicopters, and We Be-Lung Together.

Stephanie Steelman, Pantex polymer chemist, led a session called Polymers All Around You to show the girls everyday uses of polymers.

WISE helps the girls see that science is not hard, and it can be fun in a lot of situations,” said Steelman. “Opening that mental block that they’re not going to be good enough is what we have to overcome. We want to be here to tell all of them that they are good enough to do anything that they put their mind to.”

Chemistry demonstration.

Nicole Kaufman, Pantex analytical chemistry specialist, agreed that girls having exposure to STEM at a young age shows them that they have the ability to be successful in the fields.

“I see myself in these girls,” said Kaufman. “Sometimes you get that imposter syndrome, so to have someone tell you at a young age that you can do something is really important.”

After taking a year off due to COVID-19 restrictions, the WISE committee was excited to be back with a record number of registrations.

“We had an overwhelmingly positive response to the event this year,” said Allison Roberts, WISE committee member and Pantex Communications specialist. “Our goal is to encourage as many future scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and technology professionals as possible through this annual conference and our scholarship program.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women make up nearly half of the workforce, but only about 27% of STEM workers.

“We are still lacking women in those fields, and women have the capability of thinking in a different way than men,” said Steelman. “We need that diversity in our workforce.”