Engaging Girls in STEM Fields with Help from MCDB


Nov 07, 2013

FEMMES event participant

A UM student group, with support from MCDB, is helping young girls from southeastern Michigan recognize their potential to be scientists and engineers.

FEMMES (Females Excelling More in Math, Engineering and Science) is presenting an all-day Capstone event on the University of Michigan campus on November 16 geared to 4th-6th grade girls. The group expects about 120 youngsters from Detroit, Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor area schools.

Engaging, hands-on activities in the FEMMES programs allow girls to learn in a fun, supportive environment and explore their potential in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields. “We hope to build our participants' curiosity about a variety of areas related to science, math, and engineering and encourage them to increase their participation in those fields,” say the organizers.

The day starts with keynote speakers who explain their roles in STEM fields and the paths that led them to those roles. Then there are hands-on activities, followed by lunch with additional afternoon activities before the closing remarks. Each hands-on activity is designed and led by female faculty members, graduate students, and STEM undergraduates.

The existing gender disparities in the STEM fields underscore the need for outreach programs to help engage young women in such areas, explain the student organizers.

Many MCDB faculty and students are volunteers.

Assistant Professor Sara Aton is a faculty advisor to the group. At a past event, she offered a session on “Mind Reading with EEG.” The girls saw how an electroencephalography (EEG) machine shows whether you are asleep or awake, relaxed or thinking hard. They recorded brain activity in a human subject and a mouse and played a game that used their own brainpower to control EEG activity in a mental tug-of-war.

Other MCDB faculty who have provided hands-on activities at past events include Laura Buttitta, Catherine Collins, Ann Miller, Laura Olsen, and Pamela Raymond.
FEMMES also offers after school programs in area elementary schools and other capstone events throughout the year.

The group welcomes more volunteers. If you are interested, contact Abigail Garrity agarrity@umich.edu

The UM FEMMES website offers more information. You can find it at:
umich.edu/~femmesum