Courtesy of Joseph Brown

March 20, 2016

High Schoolers Attend Cornell Women’s STEM Outreach Event

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Thirty-six female high school sophomores engaged in scientific inquiry and discovery at Cornell’s seventh annual Women’s Outreach in Materials, Energy and Nanobiotechnology event Saturday.

The event, sponsored by the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering’s Graduate Women’s Group, aimed to encourage high school girls to go into STEM fields, according to Yaset Acevedo Ph.D. ’18, the group’s outreach coordinator.

“Volunteers led hands-on laboratory exercises and student panels to introduce high school girls to engineering and science, inspiring them to pursue a college education and career in these areas,” Acevedo said.

Acevedo added that there are proportionally less women, especially in rural New York, who go into STEM majors.

“Here in Ithaca we’re uniquely placed with Cornell,” he said. “10th grade is a good time to attract ladies to this field because they’re still figuring out what they want to do for college, and it’s still early enough in their high school career that they can take more science or math courses.”

The group started planning the event in October with several checkpoints along the way, including a laboratory safety check and event run-through.

“In January, applications were sent out to around thirty high schools in the surrounding area,” Acevedo said. “Guidance counselors were given the opportunity to invite two girls who they felt would benefit from the outreach program.”

Graduate students participated in the event in hopes of “inspiring the high school girls to make decisions similar to their own,” according to Acevedo.

There was also a parent portion of the event to help parents encourage their daughters to go into STEM fields.

“[The parent portion] included a discussion about helping their daughters apply for college admission and financial aid, as well as a special laboratory experiment set-up for the parents to help their daughters,” Acevedo said.

The lab activity had parents and students work together to investigate surface tension and density by attempting to float a paperclip on water. They added soap and honey to water to make it more dense than the paperclip, so the paperclip would float, according to Stacy Knapp, who did the experiment with her daughter Matilda.

Maeghan Rodd, a student attendee, called the volunteers who organized the biology lab “amazing” and “energetic.”

Maeghan’s father agreed, saying the energy level at the student panel was “great.”

“[The college students] seemed very focused and passionate about their majors,” he said.

The event also included a panel of undergraduate and Ph.D students who discussed topics ranging from their high school course load to Cornell’s role in shaping their designated career paths.

Rodd, who said she is interested in a career in science, called the event “a great experience.”

“I’m definitely going to apply to Cornell,” Rodd said.