Girls get world-class STEM experience, inspiration

By Michael Ellis Langley

Photography By Dino Vournas

Thursday, April 09, 2020

techbridge student takes thermal imaging photo
A student from the Techbridge Girls program in Oakland smiles as a thermal camera takes her image during STEM Day for Girls at Sandia/California March 4.

Dozens of middle school girls from the Techbridge Girls program in Oakland visited Sandia’s California campus March 4 during STEM Day for Girls.

The girls were welcomed by Energy and Homeland Security Program Management Director Marcey Hoover.

“I chose to become a doctor of math because I loved puzzles growing up,” Marcey said, while talking about what inspired her at their age to seek a doctorate in mathematics. “Those kinds of things got me super excited about math. I also really liked music. I played a brass instrument, and what I found was that my love for music was related to math, because music had a lot of counting and beats.”

After an icebreaker of charades, the girls asked questions of a panel of professional women, including Marcey, Stanford Assistant Professor Debbie Senesky and Techbridge role model and patent attorney Josetta Jones.

students stop for lunch
Students enjoy a quick lunch during their visit to the Sandia/California campus.

The panel was moderated by Sandia community relations specialist Kayla Norris, who organized the event. The panelists answered questions about nuclear power, how the women apply science in their work and the education they needed to get where they are.

“To be a patent attorney, you have to have a science degree,” Jones, who works for Chevron, said. “Either an engineering degree, a chemistry degree, a biology degree. But you have to have something rooted in science.”

The group then toured labs on campus to experience science in action. Following the tour, the girls were split into six groups, each of which was tasked with solving part of a problem that required them to communicate and provide resources for the other groups, to complete the activity.

Senesky gave a keynote address, drawing upon her upbringing as the first in her family to attend college and her current work at Stanford, testing materials for NASA, to make spacecraft.

students present group results
Students explain their solutions to a problem posed during a group activity.

“We need your voice in the STEM fields,” she said. “There aren’t many women in the field of engineering. Most rooms that I’m in aren’t filled with women, like this room.”

Senesky told the girls that their choices for the future may have an impact beyond their own lives.

“I want you guys, if you’re thinking about engineering, to talk to people around you and understand that if you do pursue this field, you are being a role model for other women who might pursue this line of work,” she said.

Kayla called STEM Day for Girls a success.

students in lab coats and goggles tour lab
Students tour a lab space at the Sandia/California campus during STEM Day for Girls.

“It is so important that we show girls what is possible and how they can serve their community and their nation with their mind,” she said. “These girls came from underserved communities and all walks of life. Giving them exposure to the lab and the incredible work we do here shows them all what is possible and the opportunities available to them.

“I am so grateful to Marcey, Josetta and Debbie for spending time trying to reach and inspire these girls — who may someday grow up to make their own contributions to science and technology,” she said.

Kayla also thanked the Sandia volunteers who helped with the event: Tatiana Del Cid, Gaby Bran Anleu, Evercita Eugenio, Patricia Hernandez, Chen Wang and Teresa Zieminski-Myers.

group photo
Students from the Techbridge Girls program pose with Sandians and guest speakers from Stanford University and Chevron during STEM Day for Girls.