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Eighth grade girls to learn
about science options
March 1, 1999

Nearly 200 middle school girls will visit the Storrs campus March 25 to attend a one-day conference designed to increase their awareness of careers in the fields of math, science and engineering.

The eighth-grade girls, representing 18 middle schools in Connecticut, will attend workshops presented by University faculty and staff and representatives from Connecticut companies including Pratt & Whitney, Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. and Compaq Computer Corp., along with the Connecticut Departments of Transportation and Environmental Protection, the Connecticut State Police Forensic Science Laboratory, and others.

"Our goal is to expose girls to role models in mathematics, science, engineering and technology," says Teresa Boyd, director of the Engineering Diversity Program in UConn's School of Engineering. Several hands-on workshops will be given to groups of 15-20 girls. Each will attend two different workshops in the morning. During one workshop, two chemical engineers from Hamilton Standard Space Systems International will teach the girls to build and test a device that cleans dirty water. The water treatment and purification techniques they will learn about are used at the space station. In another workshop, the girls will learn about electricity and circuit design by building a flashlight from empty soda bottles, small bulbs, electrical tape and wire.

In the afternoon, a panel of women with careers in math or science will speak to the eighth graders. "We're going to play Tool Clues. Five or six objects that are used by the women at work are placed in a bag. The girls must reach in the bag, feel the objects and try to guess each woman's career," explains Boyd.

A worksheet on women inventors is sent to each of the participating schools prior to the conference. The girls will also receive a packet of articles and a listing of websites that will provide more information about careers in math, science and engineering. "We hope that these sources will encourage them to investigate their options further," says Boyd.

This is the fifth year the "Multiply Your Options" conference has been held at UConn.

"This conference is just a tiny part of what needs to be done" to break down the gender barrier in math, science, and engineering, Boyd says, noting that jobs in those fields are held predominately by men. "Next year we'll be able to see if any students that attended our first conference are now math, science or engineering majors at UConn."

Kirstyn Lazur