The following was submitted by Sarah Connors.
The Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri, in a partnership with AT&T, played host Nov. 10 to Dr. Cora B. Marrett, Deputy Director of the National Science Foundation, as she held a roundtable discussion with 17 local Girl Scouts and reviewed their STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) projects.
Emily and Katie Pitz of Kirkwood were two Girl Scouts who were able to attend the roundtable discussion and share their project, a First® Lego Competition robotic vehicle designed to perform a specific mission. Emily and Katie demonstrated their vehicle, which was designed to do tasks on a model farm, to Marrett, who praised them for being able to diagnose and solve their vehicle's problems when their missions didn't go according to plan.
"Today was really cool. Dr. Marrett was great because she actually cares about these careers and how people get into them," said Katie, who is hoping some day to be an engineer. Her sister agreed, as did Georgia Buchanan, an 8th grader, also of Kirkwood. Buchanan built a model house using repurposed materials and was impressed by Marrett's discussion.
"She knows about everything we're interested in, so it's easy to ask questions," Buchanan said.
Dr. Marrett, who has worked for the NSF for four years and was named Deputy Director in May 2011, fielded questions from the girls and told stories about her experiences. The questions varied from inquiring about Marrett's life to career advice to specifics on different fields. Marrett spun each answer into a conversation that ultimately related to long-term thinking about STEM careers.
"Events like these serve a dual purpose," Marrett said. "First, it gives the girls an idea of things that are beyond what they have experienced. It also gives me an idea of what creative strategies might work to draw girls into STEM fields."
Following the discussion, Debra Hollingsworth, AT&T's Regional Vice President of External Affairs, presented the Girl Scouts with a $1 million check to benefit an initiative called "IMAGINE: Your Stem Future." The initiative, which is funded through an AT&T Aspire contribution, is designed to reach 6,000 young women across the U.S. and introduce them to a variety of career ideas in the science, technology, engineering and math fields.
Currently, minority students and women are gravitating away from science and engineering toward other professions. This trend could pose a future workforce crisis since employment in STEM fields is increasing at a faster pace than in non-STEM fields; it is anticipated that approximately 1.2 million new STEM jobs will be created worldwide by 2018. Educational experts say the U.S. must increase proficiency and interest in these areas to compete in the global economy.
From November 2011 until summer 2012, Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri, along with 17 other Girl Scout Councils, will participate in IMAGINE's educational curriculum. It offers opportunities for girls to team up with AT&T employees and other volunteers to participate in interactive activities and visual experiments, such as extracting DNA from a banana. These activities are designed to help students imagine a future STEM career and spark interest in taking additional STEM courses in high school. They can then go on to take related courses in college, and open doors to new career options.