Shepherd offers girls’ science conference
Middle school-age girls will once again get the opportunity to hone their math and science skills during the second annual Seeding Your Future conference scheduled for Oct. 3 at Shepherd University. The daylong event is designed to inspire more girls to become interested in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers.
Dr. Sytil Murphy, assistant professor of physics, and Dr. Jordan Mader, assistant professor of chemistry, received a $3,750 grant from the NASA West Virginia Space Grant Consortium to conduct the event. Shepherd is contributing $9,125 to the effort that will offer hands-on workshops and other activities designed to increase middle school-age girls’ interest in STEM-related activities.
“We are really excited,” Mader said. “We have a lot of faculty support and will be doing some new workshops this year in addition to repeating some of the workshops we did last year.”
Both Mader and Murphy enjoy offering science outreach and working with younger students. Mader said she particularly enjoyed teaching a workshop on edible chemistry.
“The workshop was great and the kids were hilarious,” she said. “They were tasting the different things that they made and were critiquing them. It was really fun to watch them make the stuff, then taste it and see their reaction. It felt like Gordon Ramsay was in the room.”
Last year Murphy conducted a workshop that explained how resonance works in relation to sound and musical instruments.
“The girls just loved it,” she said. “They wanted more and more and more, but we were out of time.”
Mader and Murphy conducted a survey of the students who participated in last year’s conference, and they said it was a success at sparking an interest in STEM fields
“The data shows they were really happy with the conference and what they got out of it,” Mader said. “They said they learned a ton.”
“They really were excited about science and math and engineering afterward,” Murphy added. “We definitely had an increase in the girls who said they would consider doing something like this for a career. They said it helped build their confidence and that they could do science and math. It really helped them to understand why science and math are important.”
This year Murphy and Mader are hoping for 100 participants who are in fifth through eighth grade. Students who attended last year can come again. Registration forms are due back Sept. 11. More information about Seeding Your Future is available at www.seedingyourfuture.weebly.com.