On April 10, Science Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) workshops are available for seventh and eighth grade girls. The Virtual Event will run from 9:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. Registration is open and is scheduled to close on April 6. The workshops are part of Sonoma County’s “expanding your horizons network.” You can register and find more information at: eyh-soco.org.
Expanding Your Horizons originated in 1976. Originally called the “Math/Science Network,” the first conference was held at Mills College in Oakland. According to their website, “more than 430,000 sixth- through twelfth-grade young women and approximately 47,000 parents and educators have attended EYH Conferences in 32 states.” Conferences are used “as an intervention strategy, designed to nurture girls’ interest in mathematics and science courses” and to “expand their career visions to include science—and mathematics-based careers.”
Each event is organized by local volunteers. Jessica Ellis is one such volunteer. A licensed professional structural engineer, she moved from the South Bay to Santa Rosa about three years ago and became involved with the local Sonoma County effort. This year her role was to organize the publicity for this event. The organizing committee of women and men, many in STEM fields, consisted of 10 core folks with many other volunteers available as needed. Ellis said she got involved because being in the STEM field she felt it’s “really important to get exposure to the STEM” careers for girls. “Broadening their idea of what” types of careers are available to them.
These conferences have been held for many years in Sonoma County. Pre-pandemic, they alternated between the Santa Rosa Junior College and Sonoma State University campuses. The last in-person conference was held in 2019 at the JC. That event had approximately 80 attendees. The 2020 conference was schedule to be held at SSU. Registration had commenced when the shelter-in-place health orders were issued. Initially, pushing it back to September 2020 was planned, but as the shelter-in-place rules continued to be expanded it was cancelled. Since then, they’ve moved forward with planning the 2021 Conference as an on-line virtual event. Fifteen girls signed up on the first day of registration. Normally the cost of attending the conference was between $10-15 to cover facility rent and conference lunch. As a virtual event this year there is no cost to attend.
In addition to the SRJC and SSU, local sponsors include Medtronic, Pocket Radar, Keysight Technologies, Ultragenyx pharmaceutical and others. Workshop leaders are women working in STEM fields and companies. This year four workshops are featured. They will run one at a time. Students participate in small, volunteer-led breakout groups to discuss the activities of each workshop. For example, one workshop is called “How to Mend a Broken Heart.” The girls will see all the various types of devices that are made by Medtronic that go inside the body to repair the heart and arteries such as valves, stent grafts and balloons. They’ll see how they are designed, tested, and made.
In the Biology, Chemistry and Health category will be an interactive activity based on the Wheel of Fortune game show. This is designed to test the girl’s knowledge of what nurses need to know. In the Computer Science category, the girls will learn some basic programming commands, how to draw a graph, and create a Graphical User Interface (GUI) for the game of Tic-Tac-Toe. In the Geology and Environmental Science area, they’ll learn about upcoming alternative fuel transportation. Kits will be available to participants to pick up at various locations, following pandemic guidelines, at locations to be determined after registration closes.
The target audience is girls in middle school; however, boys may attend. When in person, typically only one or two did. The focus is “to increase the interest of young women in math and science,” foster awareness of related careers, provide young women the opportunity to meet and interact with positive role models in those career fields and provide positive experiences in math and science. The workshops each run about an hour, with breaks between them and for lunch. There is also an opening and closing session. If you have any questions you may call them at 707-800-9819 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. To support their efforts, donations can be made on-line or mailed to Expanding Your Horizons at P.O. Box 14565, Santa Rosa, CA 95402-6565.