By Emily Greenhalgh
PBN Contributing Writer
KINGSTON - Thursday, the University of Rhode Island played host to 520 girls from 30 Rhode Island public and private high schools for the 11th annual GRRL Tech career expo.
GRRL Tech – Girls Reaching Remarkable Levels – is a day-long science, technology, engineering and math expo for sophomore and junior high school girls.
The program, a brain child of Tech Collective, Rhode Island’s industry association for information technology and bioscience, offers access to hands-on workshops and career mentoring for high school girls interested in STEM careers.
“It’s absolutely critical to engage students in their early years in high school – especially in their sophomore year – to show them that these types of careers are not too scientific or geeky or lab rat. They’re not those kind of profiles, they can be fun and interesting,” Kathie Shields, executive director of Tech Collective, told Providence Business News.
This year, GRRL Tech offered students the option to choose two concentrated 45-minute workshops. There were 24 options available, ranging from computer science to natural resource management to mechanical engineering.
“Not only do we want to inspire girls to be excited about science, technology, engineering and math careers,” said Shields in a prepared statement. “We want to insure that they obtain the basic logic and knowledge of learning behind these subjects as they all graduate into a knowledge-based economy where employers are looking for a new type of skilled worker.”
This year, four girls came away with scholarships designed to help further their science, technology, engineering or math career goals.
Alyssa Friedman of North Providence High School, Kimberly Geraghty of Johnston Senior High School, Megan Major of East Providence High School and Morgan Quinley of North Smithfield High School each won a $4,000 annual scholarship to the University of Rhode Island for essays explaining what attracted them to STEM and their ideas for attracting other students to science and technology careers.
This was the first year the GRRL Tech expo was held at URI. Previous years were hosted by Roger Williams University and the Community College of Rhode Island, among others.
The move to the larger URI campus allowed Tech Collective to expand the GRRL Tech program by 60 students from 460 in 2011 to 520, allowing in students from four more schools.
On the success of Thursday’s event, URI has already agreed to host next year’s GRRL Tech expo.