A sense of empowerment and appreciation for the STEM field is what many female high school students gained after spending Monday at Texas Lutheran University for the second STEM@TLU: A Day For Aspiring Young Women.
Dedicated to encouraging the future chemists, doctors, nurses and coders of the world, the event hosted more than 100 students from around the state to learn about the opportunities available for them in the STEM world.
During the event, the young women had the opportunity to take part in several hands-on labs and experiments including designing code from scratch, extracting their own DNA, examining the presence of the Staph and Strep infection and a physics lab on the discovery of black holes.
Jocelyn Viegas from Steele High School, Maddie Hicks from Regan High School and Lena Beck from the Legacy Preparatory Academy found themselves in the “Babies, Heart Murmurs, Lungs and More” lab where they met TLU Nursing Director Carolyn Lewis and Amie Bedgood, a TLU nursing instructor.
“Today, I talked to them about the importance of maintaining the heat of the baby after they’re born through conduction, convection, evaporation and radiation,” Bedgood said. “Those are the methods they can lose heat. We talked about the rapid assessment right after delivery and how we complete that to make sure the baby is OK.”
Bedgood also conducted a shaken baby demonstration.
“It allows us to show them the importance of supporting the baby’s head all the time until they’re able to have head control because if they don’t the brain moves around in there because it has room to grow,” she said.
After, the students rotated to Lewis, who went through the steps of how to tend to a person with an open wound.
In addition to the labs, the young women sat in on a panel of TLU female alumni now in the STEM field.
While many of the students joined the program because of their interest in STEM, others wanted to explore their options.
“I wanted to come because I don’t really know what I want to do yet for my career and they’re really focused on us choosing what we want to do in high school,” Viegas said. “I haven’t decided what I wanted to do so I’m exploring all these fields to figure out what I like.”
Beck said the topic of black holes drew her interest.
“I love physics and astronomy and as soon as I heard there was something about black holes, I immediately came,” she said. “I love going to universities and learning about those things from different professors because they have different views on physics and theoretics.”
Toni Sauncy, TLU’s physics department chair, pitched the idea of STEM@TLU last year after hosting the event at a university where she previously worked.
“I used to do a similar program annually at Angelo State University in conjunction with the Girl Scouts of the Concho Valley called Expanding Your Horizons,” she said. “It was a day-long conference for middle and high school young women to interact with faculty. It was just really rewarding. We weren’t doing anything like that here in Seguin and I think that this area really didn’t have a lot for young women.”
Through programs like STEM@TLU, Sauncy said she hopes they can further grow the STEM field.
“Most of us who participate in STEM, the science, mathematics, engineering and technology field, we realized that really, in order to get the best problem-solving teams, we need our groups, all of our groups to look like society,” she said. “So until the demographics in science fields look like the demographics in our world, then we’re not done yet.”
It’s important the field has multiple perspectives and multiple cultures, she said.
Sauncy said she hopes all the young women left with a sense of inspiration and empowerment to do anything.
“I think one of the big takeaways is that women realize that they are capable of many, many things beyond what they might have thought before they tried it,” she said.
“They’re invited to try it and encouraged and inspired to do things that they hadn’t thought they might really love to do. So I hope that they take away a sense of curiosity and sort of empowerment that they can do all the things that they might be curious about.”