PROVIDENCE – Tech Collective’s third annual STEM in the Middle Girls’ Career Expo, hosted Dec. 6 by the Rhode Island STEM Center at Rhode Island College, drew 90 female middle-school students looking to learn more about possible careers in science, technology, engineering and math.
The STEM in the Middle campaign aims to raise awareness of STEM careers at the middle-school level, which educators and industry experts agree is a critical turning point when students – particularly girls – can begin to shy away from STEM fields due to gender stereotypes or lack of awareness about potential opportunities.
The students from John F. Deering Middle School, Gorton Junior High School and the Sophia Academy who attended the Girls’ Career Expo participated in workshops highlighting various STEM career fields, including computer technology and programming, social media, mathematics, geographic information systems, chemistry, art and electronics.
“STEM in the Middle fulfills a critical need for interactive and participatory programs for middle school students, especially girls,” said Carol Giuriceo, director of the Rhode Island STEM Center. “Interest in STEM disciplines starts to wane by middle school. Our workshops and activities engage students, inspire curiosity, and open new doors of opportunity. Although not everyone is going to work in the STEM fields, every girl should feel confident about her skills and be excited about STEM.”
The annual expo is funded through a Governor’s Workforce Board of Rhode Island Industry Partnership grant and sponsored by Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems. Workshops featured at the expo were designed by female industry professionals and faculty.
Ahlers Designs, Free Geek Providence, the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, the Rhode Island Foundation and Rhode Island College were among the companies and organizations participating in the expo.
“More and more, middle school continues to be identified as a turning point in students’ perception of and engagement in STEM,” said JoAnn Johnson, manager of youth and education programs for Tech Collective. “The Expo’s combination of education, industry connection, and first-hand experience is its key success in engaging and inspiring these students here today.”