STEM Fair at RIT hopes to encourage young girls to pursue science, technology careers

Feb 4, 2017

Some area middle school and high school girls spent their Saturday learning about science, technology, engineering and math.

The "Girls Soaring in STEM Fair" at the Rochester Institute of Technology aimed to encourage young women to pursue careers in a variety of STEM fields, which are typically dominated by men.

The fair hosted over 30 demonstrations put together by RIT's Women in Technology, Women in Science, Women in Computing and Women in Engineering groups.

Lana Verschage she is the Director of Women in Computing at RIT and said the event focused on girls in 4th through 12th grade.

"Currently the stage for women pursuing STEM disciplines is underrepresented. And the earlier we get them engaged, the more likely they are to see that this is a viable option in terms of studying and actually finding a job."

Nykki Matthews, Director of Women in Technology at RIT hopes giving girls more exposure to these industries will stimulate interest.

"What does a lab look like, what does a scientist look like, what does a mathematician look like? There’s no one cookie cutter picture. And that right there is what I think is so powerful with this event. Every demo represents something different, something unique and something captivating and enticing for our girls."

Matthews believes it’s not just STEM careers that carry a stereotype.

“I think all fields have some kind of stereotype. Whether its teachers or nurses or judges, right? You have a picture that comes to your mind. When you think of your science teachers, all mine were male. I don’t remember having a female. But my English teachers, they were all female. So its mirroring, what do they see? What are the opportunities that they’re offered?”

Aside from generating interest, Matthews also said they hope to create a support group of young women interested in STEM careers.

“I think these programs that we have give them a space to explore, a safe space so they'll be prepared when they go into those board rooms or activities where they may be the only female. So they know what to expect to a certain degree. That’s what’s happening, building community."

Melissa Young is a student at RIT and was helping out at the event. She agrees, saying she felt kind of left out when she reached college and discovered all of these other career options.

"As a child growing up in a small town I was not exposed to a lot of these different fields that are extremely important to the development of society. You need science to get forward in medicine; you need computers because everyone is always on the newest gadgets."

Young is now studying game design and development at RIT.

Some of the demonstrations set up at the fair included learning the math and science behind magic tricks, coding for games and media, as well as building and designing boats.