Connecticut’s drive to promote the development of the STEM fields – science, technology, engineering and math – to boost Connecticut’s economy and create sustainable jobs includes women and girls as essential to the efforts’ success. That aspect will be front and center on Saturday, June 7, when the Connecticut Technology Council sponsors the annual Girls of Innovation program in Hartford, geared specifically to middle school age girls, entering grades 7 and 8, “to experience science and its challenges in a fun, interactive way,” according to program organizers.
Girls of Innovation “inspires today’s middle school students to consider careers in science and technology-related research, health services and business areas.” During the day, volunteers drawn from the Connecticut Women of Innovation program and CTC membership meet and work with the girls. They talk with the students about their experiences and careers and guide them through the challenges created by the Staff Scientists at the Connecticut Science Center.
Hank Gruner, Vice President of Programs at the Connecticut Science Center, which hosts the program, understands the need to develop programs that will bring more middle school girls into science and technology fields. “The Connecticut Science Center feels strongly that this type of project is essential for Connecticut’s future science and technology workforce,” says Gruner.
Officials point out that although women fill close to half of all jobs in the U.S economy, they hold less than 25 percent of STEM related careers. A key message from the Girls of Innovation program is to show participating middle school students real scientists who are “like me” and to inspire girls with the confidence, enthusiasm and persistence to continue pursuing their scientific interests. The program achieves that by bringing the girls together with women working in STEM careers who can talk with the girls about their own career path and interests and choices they made while growing up. The program sponsor is Covidien. New this year, and as a thank you to the girls participating in the science challenge, program sponsors will be coordinating a hands-on activity and distributing Genius Boxes at the conclusion of the event. A Genius Box is a do-it-yourself, boxed project containing all the necessary materials a child needs to complete the challenge inside.
The Genius Box co-founders will be distributing their prototype Circuits Genius Box to the middle school girls at the event, completing a Flying Saucer circuits activity in small groups with program participants and then presenting each girl with a box to take home containing two remaining Circuits activities - a DIY Circuit Board to light up an LED and sound a buzzer, made up of a 3 volt battery, paper clips, and fasteners, and also a Pop-up LED Circuits card made from a 3 volt battery and copper wire.
A new entrepreneurial start-up developed as part of a college challenge by students Kate Pipa and Shivangi Shah, Genius Box delivers a monthly themed box of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) experiments “right to your door, packed with projects and learning opportunities.” The drive behind the business is clearly stated: “We empower the changemakers and problem-solvers of tomorrow, today.”
The mission of the Connecticut Technology Council is to build an interactive community of innovators and their supporters that can leverage these great advantages to create a thriving economy, job growth, a global reputation for entrepreneurial support, and a lifestyle that attracts the best and brightest people to come here and retains the young people who have grown up here. The CTC recently hosted the 10th annual Women of Innovation awards, which recognized 59 women from across Connecticut for their innovation and leadership contributions in the STEM fields.