With just a few clicks of the mouse, a series of interconnected lines on a computer screen transformed into a three-dimensional model of a wooden game board, each customized with the name of the girl who designed it.
Fifteen girls from area schools were at Southeast Technical College on Friday to learn about Computer Aided Design and other topics as part of the college’s first Girls Understanding and Exploring STEM Science (GUESS) program.
“It’s a special day to elevate girls,” said CAD instructor Jim Ziegler. “In my field, women are really underrepresented.”
Ziegler said the goal of the program is to expose girls to STEM — a curriculum that focuses on science, technology, engineering and math — more than they may have been in the past. And to do it without boys, so they might feel more free to ask questions, interact and give non-traditional careers a second-look.
“We are missing a lot of new ideas when we only have half the population participating in a particular field,” Ziegler said. “We want to show them they can have these kind of experiences.”
There were five sessions for the girls on Friday, including auto maintenance and nanotechnology. By lunchtime, the students had been exposed to four of the five and had liked each one.
“It was really fun and new experience,” said Lewiston-Altura eighth-grader Allison Averbeck. “I had never really done these kinds of things before.”
Emily Boettger, a Winona Middle School eighth-grader, said she really enjoyed the CAD session, as well as the oil change demonstration. Before Friday, she wanted to be a dental hygienist, she said, but the program has made her take a new look at STEM careers.
Rushford-Peterson ninth-grader Rachel O’Shaughnessy also liked the oil change session. But she wasn’t convinced STEM learning was going to change her career path.
“Nah,” she said. “It was a fun experience, but I still want to be a dentist.”