Earlier this year, Girl Scouts of the USA introduced several new badges related to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education. Girl Scouts now have the opportunity to earn badges by creating algorithms, designing robots and racecars, trying their hand at engineering, and more. It’s one of the Girl Scout organization’s biggest badge rollouts in years, and it should prove to be an instrumental program that encourages girls to learn new skills and encourage their interest in STEM and careers in manufacturing.
As we continue to recognize Manufacturing Month during October, we are taking the time to focus on “Women in Manufacturing.” This week, we celebrate the women who are pursuing or have chosen a career in this industry. It’s also important to make young girls aware of the opportunities available to them, and it is never too early to start.
This past June, Elkhorn Area Middle School student Senya Kruger stopped in with her mother Tina. Senya was trying to raise money for a special trip she had been invited to attend: an all girls STEM trip to Boston to visit the MIT laboratories and FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Headquarters. While at the MIT laboratories, the students will have the opportunity to meet a team of all female scientists.
Senya has shown an interest in the STEM fields for some time, and she has represented her school on more than one occasion at various Project Lead the Way (PLTW) events. She enjoys school and learning, and she is part of the Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) program at her school. Not only is she looking forward to the technology-centered aspects of this trip, she can’t wait to visit the Mmmmmaven School of Music and Technology, a school that specializes in digital music production. Senya plays clarinet in the school band, and she is interested in the strong connection between math, science, and music.
We recently had another nice visit with Senya, along with her father Kevin, when she returned for a plant tour and to accept our contribution towards her well-deserved trip. Like many young ladies who have interned at Precision Plus in past years, Senya is mature and intelligent, with a world of opportunities in front of her. Her parents are guiding her to work hard to follow her dreams, and it was their idea that she earn the trip by going out into the community to raise the funds needed. Not only is this a great way to raise money, she is definitely honing the interpersonal communication skills she’ll need in the “real world” someday.
A thirst for knowledge, determination, and a curiosity about how things are made and work. These are qualities needed to be successful in our industry and other STEM-related fields. We see those qualities in Senya. They are the same qualities that Girl Scouts of the USA are encouraging in their young members and the qualities found in those female scientists at the MIT research laboratories. These women and girls have something else in common, as well. Someone encouraging their drive to succeed – mentorship. Research shows that women, especially women in STEM fields, do better if they have a mentor.
The Women’s Technology Program (WTP) at MIT encourages young women to pursue STEM studies. Female high school students are invited to live on campus over the summer and gain hands-on engineering experience in labs and classes. Last fall, the undergraduate population in MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering was comprised of 49.5 percent women. The national average is a number much lower, somewhere in the teens. MIT is doing something right.
Success breeds success, and women in manufacturing can be great role models for the next generation of female manufacturers. It’s important for us all to introduce and expose girls to career options in STEM and modern manufacturing. It’s never too early. Not only are these viable career choices for any young person, it is interesting and challenging work. It’s a chance to be highly innovative and really “see” what your work produces.