“A civil engineer,” is what a bright-eyed, high school sophomore said to me as we were settling into the education wing at the Intrepid Museum. I had asked her if she had any idea what she wanted to be when she got older and her surety surprised me. We were there for a GOALS for Girls mentorship day, an afternoon for young girls interested in STEAM—science, technology, engineering, art, and math—fields to speak with women working professionals. The workshop was held at the back of the museum, overlooking the Hudson River. It was pouring the rain outside but you wouldn’t be able to tell from the enthusiasm in the room. I felt lucky to have chosen a seat beside the aspiring engineer when we started the day. Our first activity was a challenge; which table could build the strongest bridge using toothpicks, marshmallows, and gumdrops. My new “mentee” took the lead on construction and I learned that triangles are the strongest shape, and the difference between suspension and truss bridges. Our bridge was able to hold the 55 cents required, but our table decided to test its limits with two cars made out of doughnuts.
GOALs (Greater Opportunities Advancing Leadership in Science) for Girls is a free, 6-week summer camp held at the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum for 8th and 9th grade girls in New York City Schools. It was started out of a need to increase curiosity and proficiency in STEAM fields and inspire more women to consider a STEM career path. The statistics of women in STEM fields are not ones to brag about. Only 1 in 7 engineers is female and women hold just 27% of computer science jobs. But GOALS is hoping to change these numbers, by showing young girls how promising a career in STEM can be.
We heard from Diane Fresquez, a food and arts journalist who spoke about her new book, A Taste of Molecules. Diane followed a group of obsessive scientists who are trying to understand the intricacies of flavor for over a year. Her book shows that science doesn’t just take place in laboratories but can be found in kitchens and breweries, helping to draw the connection to chemistry in everyday life. She showed that science can be personal to our lives and helped to evoke a deeper curiosity and allure to the STEM fields.
The rest of the day was spent mingling and networking. I sat at a table while the young girls came around to learn about my work at the Human Impacts Institute. It was truly a pleasure to talk with so many girls about their specific interests, and how they can be directly applied to environmental issues we face today. I hope they were able to come away with a greater understanding of climate and environmental science.
My favorite part of the event was getting an email the next day from one of my mentees. After attending this event, I have come away with a greater appreciation of the role of a mentor and how necessary they are to helping girls pursue careers in the sciences. In an industry dominated by men, it can sometimes be intimidating to confidently walk into a profession as a minority. But having strong, intelligent women there to support you, can make all the difference.
By LeAnne Harvey, Human Impacts Institute’s Community Relations Manager