Published May 2014
By Heather Villa, Tri-Cites Area Journal of Business
The event was held April 8-10 at the Center of Career and Technology Education at Columbia Basin College in Pasco. It not only demystified algebra, but the young women got a hands-on lesson in how math is used in many types of profession everyday — especially in many non-stereotypical careers for women.
“We recognize that one barrier to girls pursuing non-stereotypical careers is their lack of self-confidence in math and so I wanted to create an environment in which the young girls could be introduced to algebra in a fun and encouraging manner, whereby they could learn its real-world application towards future career opportunities in fields such as engineering and manufacturing,” said Keeley Gant, CBC’s director of tech prep and workforce enrollment.
And what could be more fun than learning about algebra and careers when marshmallows are involved?
Kristin Stowe, an engineering technology student at CBC helped design a CADD drawing of a marshmallow catapult. The girls used the design to measure and cut PVC pipes to create the catapults and then used them to propel hundreds of marshmallows across the college classroom.
That was the best part of the program for Amy Aichele, an Enterprise Middle School HomeLink student in West Richland.
Aichele was asked how she thought other girls would like the event she said they should definitely do it.
Aside from fun and games, the concerns girls may have about male-dominated careers were addressed.
“You don’t have to become masculine to do a job. If you can do it well, biases are minimized,” said Kerrin Bleazard, an associate professor in the agriculture department at CBC.
Paige Wyatt, associate professor of engineering and engineering technology at CBC stressed that girls are just as capable in math and engineering as boys when she talked with the girls.
Part of the event included a tour of CBC’s state-of-the-art automotive, manufacturing, nuclear, welding and engineering technology departments.
In the nuclear lab, the girls saw Amanda Bowman, working alongside male peers.
“Don’t be afraid to sign up for a shop class. You might like it,” said Chris Mitchell, associate professor of the welding program at CBC.
Also at the event was a brand new 3D printer, along with freshly printed small objects, like dice.
The program even included a parent track that featured workshop on financial aid, scholarships and college savings. Options for high school students to receive college credit were also addressed. And students learned there are opportunities and financial advantages for young women who pursue non-traditional fields.
“We’re training the new generation,” said Dawn Alford, director of CBC’s Nuclear Technology Program.
The median salary for someone with a nuclear technology degree is $69,000 to $72,000 per year.
The girls received more than mathematical skills and information about career options. They heard some good life advice.
“What you need to do is what you like, so every day isn’t work,” said Robert Walker, associate professor in CBC’s manufacturing technology department.
About 50 girls have attended the GEMS program during the two years it has been in existence and it has already made an impact in some of their lives, said Alford. One student who attended GEMS last year credits the program for her interest and subsequent application to the Nuclear Technology Program.
“She will be our first Running Start student in the Nuclear Technology Program, come fall,” she said.
GEMS was developed with funds obtained through a non-traditional grant from the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges relative to the Carl D. Perkins grant. The Carl D. Perkins Act strengthens connections between secondary and postsecondary education while focusing on technical education.
Girls will have another opportunity to learn about non-traditional careers at the upcoming summer camp, sponsored by CBC. “Try Non-Trad Girls Summer Camp” is FREE to attend, and open to ninth-grade through twelfth -grade girls, June 23-27, 2014 from 1:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. During the week-long event, girls will rotate through several hands-on exploratory sessions as they are introduced to non-traditional careers such as welding, automotive, agriculture, manufacturing, astronomy and nuclear technology.
“Explore it now, while it’s free, prior to college,” Gant said.
For more information, or to obtain a registration packet for the summer camp, visit www.columbiabasin.edu/TNT.
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