by guest bloggers Aashvi Shah and Audrey McKown
We are so excited to bring you our first guest blog! A couple of weeks ago Brianna Church, EIT, and Rachel Schnabel, PE, led a hands-on, STEM-focused activity at Tolland Middle School. Brianna and Rachel taught the students about green infrastructure and its role filtering stormwater, and then worked with the students to create filtration systems using a variety of materials. Though both Brianna and Rachel came back overflowing with great stories, we thought it might be interesting to hear about the event from the students themselves. Aashvi Shah and Audrey McKown, both in the 6th grade, were kind enough to share their thoughts with us. They came up with the following questions themselves, and we’re so thankful for their time and thoughts!
On January 31, 2019, Tolland Middle School hosted the STEMfems event, coordinated by the CT Women’s Hall of Fame. With so much research pointing to the low numbers of women pursuing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) related majors and careers, and that girls’ interests in STEM subjects begin to drop significantly in middle school, this was a perfect opportunity to expose our students to female mentors in these fields. The girls had the opportunity to participate in multiple hands-on workshops presented by six CT-based companies, including Fuss & O’Neill.
Two of our students, Aashvi Shah and Audrey McKown, volunteered to share some their insights and experiences from the day.
What workshops did you get to participate in?
Audrey: I was so lucky to participate in Surgeon for a Day (Medtronic), Crazy for Rockets and Space (Ensign-Bickford), and Saving the Environment (AECOM).
Aashvi: The workshops that I participated in were Surgeon for a Day (Medtronic), Crazy for Rockets and Space (Ensign-Bickford), and Going Green (Fuss & O’Neill).
What did you like about the event?
Audrey: I liked how we got a lot of information that we don’t usually get as part of the sixth grade curriculum in science. The whole experience was aimed at making TMS more of a STEM community. I loved the hands-on opportunities that we got to participate in. I especially enjoyed the Surgeon for a Day session. It was so exciting when we got to use a real tool that surgeons use for fixing lung cancer in surgery. How neat is that!
Aashvi: What I liked about the STEMfems event was that we got to do a lot of hands-on activities, which is right up my alley. For example, in the workshop Going Green, we got to filter water using certain materials such as foam, mulch, rocks, and sand. All of the items had a cost amount and we were given a budget of $500. The more items you took, the more expensive the materials would be. Another activity we did was in Surgeon for a Day. We used the tools that real doctors use to remove lung cancer. I thought it was so neat that I got to be like a real doctor that went through the process to remove cancer. Even though I removed the cancer with a foam piece, it felt real. It was so cool to see how doctors perform a similar procedure with people in real life.
What did you learn at the event (especially if you participated in the Fuss & O’Neill workshop)?
Audrey: Though I did not participate in the Fuss & O’Neill workshop, I still learned a lot from the workshops I was fortunate to participate in. For example, I learned that water in a lot of places on Earth is very dirty and not safe for drinking. Additionally, I discovered that there are many people that are now contributing to improving the quality of water for everybody so it is safe for consumption. While learning about water quality issues, I found out many ways that engineers are cleaning up our water in CT.
Aashvi: During the workshop, Going Green by Fuss & O’Neill, I learned that when there is too much water, it picks up oil from the streets. Then, the polluted water goes down the drains with all of that nasty oil and into the different water sources. The oil goes into rivers, ponds, streams, etc. This pollutes the water, making it unhealthy for drinking or for the environment. We also learned that it costs a lot of money to purchase items to help water pollution.
Was there anything you found that was surprising?
Audrey: Early in the morning of STEMfems I was saddened when I discovered that women are underrepresented in the field of science. I was shocked when I found out that only 24% of the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics workforce is made up of women, but <10% of them are women of color. I was actually angry when I learned that for every $1 men make, women only earn $0.92. I know it doesn’t seem like a lot, but in the long run, it makes a big difference.
Aashvi: What I found surprising is that for every $1.00 that men make, women earn $0.92 in the STEM field. This shows that the amount of money men and women get are not equal, even if they are working for the same period of time. Another thing that I found interesting is that only 24% of the STEM workforce is made up of women. This shows that the majority of the STEM field is made up of men. This was the main reason for this day! Women who work in STEM fields are trying to get other girls interested.
Did the event give you any ideas about what you might want to do in the future?
Audrey: I’ve wanted to be a rheumatologist for while (since I got arthritis) and the Surgeon for a Day activity was just more inspiration to do that. When I was five, I had an “astronaut phase”, as my mom called it, and ever since then I have dreamed of going into space or working for NASA. The Crazy for Rockets and Space activity really sparked the 5-year old me into action. I also had another phase when I was younger, called my “paleontologist phase” around the age of three. I am still fascinated by dinosaurs and living things before us. Just being in a STEM community for a day made me really want to pursue a career in a STEM field. I am now more driven to make a difference in science and am committed to increasing the percent of women that work in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
Aashvi: The STEMfems event gave me multiple ideas on what I want to do in the future. For example, the Surgeon for a Day workshop has me now considering becoming a doctor. I may even become an engineer or scientist after participating in the crazy for rockets and science workshop.
Other fun things that happened during the event
The presenters were so inspiring that we really want to learn more about STEM and have a STEM career in the future. One thing that happened during the STEMfem day that was amazing: The food!!!!!!! Aashvi is more of a pizza person but Audrey is more of a salad person, so the food was perfect for both of us and was delicious!!!!!!!
At the end of the day, we sat down and learned about the amazing women in The Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame! All of the women that have been honored were born in Connecticut, and we think that it was fascinating to see the work that these women accomplished.
It made us believe that we could do amazing things, too!
About the Authors:
Aashvi Shah is 11 years old and is a 6th grader at Tolland Middle School. She has one younger sister. Her favorite subjects are math and science, and she loves techie things. She is a part of the student government, Model UN, swim club at Star Hill, and plays the piano. Right now, she wants to be a doctor or speech therapist in the future.
Audrey McKown is 11 years old and is a 6th grader at Tolland Middle School. She also has one younger sister. Her favorite subjects are history and science, and she likes musical and historical things. She is learning to play guitar, ukulele, French horn, and piano, and she takes voice lessons. She is also in the Model UN. She defines herself as an overachiever, and is still exploring her future plans in a wide range of fields including acting, music, history, or rheumatology.