Tech Leaders Aim To Inspire Next Generation Of Females In Science

May 17, 2016

About 150 women and young girls learned about working in science and tech fields as part of the "Tech Savvy" event meant to encourage females to pursue STEM careers.
Credit Melinda Roeder / 90.5 WESA

Saint Bartholomew School student Daryl Jean, of Penn Hills said she can’t understand why more girls don’t get excited about science and technology.

“I feel like girls, they can like science and stuff, but they don’t understand it, and some boys can be intimidating,” she said. “But I think you should try your best, because there’s a lot of inspiration out there.”

The American Association of University Women tried to kick start some of that inspiration in young Pittsburghers last weekend with its “Tech Savvy” computer coding workshop at La Roche College.

Association members have said they want to close the gender gap in science and tech fields, in which women make up only 25 percent of the workforce.

“So what we do is we bring girls middle school aged 6 through ninth grade onto a college campus for a day and we have hands-on workshops that expose them to a variety of (science, technology, engineering and math) careers,” spokeswoman Nicole Phillips said. “Everything from robotics to computer programming.”

Innovation is possible with courage and collaboration, Phillips said, but it helps to have role models.

"A very important piece of our programming is exposing the girls to outstanding women mentors, so they, in turn, will mentor other girls," Phillips said.

Corinne Hartman, an Ellis School sophomore who competes with local robotics team Girls of Steel, said she wants to help pave – and program – the way.

Robots build by the Girls of Steel robotics team were on display at the La Roche event this weekend.
Credit Melinda Roeder / 90.5 WESA

“I love kind of being able to have that power in a way and you get to see what you’re doing come to life," Hartman said. "It’s really cool.”

Teammate and Oakland Catholic High School sophomore Mikayla Trost works on mechanics. She and her peers spent six weeks in a lab at Carnegie Mellon University constructing the metal and plastic parts used on a robot displayed at the event.

“We learned how to use all the machines such as lays, milling machines, cold saws, all sorts of stuff,” Trost said. “I weld, personally, so that’s really awesome.”

Professional scientists shared networking tips, and computer programmers told the girls how easy it is to start coding.

But some, like Angelique Uku from Dorseyille Middle School, said they already know they want to turn technology into a fulfilling career.

“My dream school is either Yale or CMU, and I think it would be pretty cool to be a computer programmer when I grow up,” Uku said.  

In this week's Tech Headlines: 

  • Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and Disney Imagineers have teamed up to find a low-cost solution for making games and model objects more interactive. They’re reprogramming radio frequency tags, the same tags typically used for inventory control. They cost just $.10 each, but their technique now makes it possible to use the tags to sense movement or touch in near real-time. 
  • Federal investigators can now check your Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites as part of a background check for security clearances. The director of national intelligence signed the new policy directive Friday. It’s a move several lawmakers applauded, saying government is finally catching up with technology.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.