Ed. Note: The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and Council on Women and Girls recently launched the "Women in STEM Speakers Bureau," where top Administration female STEM specialists participate in roundtables with girls in grades 6-12 across the country. The National Science Foundation’s Cora Marrett met with students from the Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri.
Earlier this month in St. Louis I had the chance to visit with Girl Scouts from the Eastern Missouri Council to talk about science. This was a group of middle school girls, so I thought it might be difficult to engage them in conversation. But I was wrong! They shared their aspirations with me, and I was excited to hear about specific fields they were interested in like materials engineering and environmental design.
It was encouraging that they were not hesitant to ask questions of me—and not just about my work at the National Science Foundation. Some questions had to do with my personal journey that landed me at NSF, and others focused on U.S. competitiveness in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education.
The young women described various STEM projects they had undertaken. Several of them had been to NASA-sponsored camps. Three had brought their robots for display. Another group brought model houses they had designed to focus on energy efficiency and sustainability.
The adults present were very supportive of these up-and-coming scientists and engineers. In fact, the attentiveness of the parents who brought their daughters and their comments at the end of the session were highly stimulating. Meanwhile, Debra Hollingsworth, an official from AT&T in the region, announced that the corporation had made an award of $1 million to the national Girl Scouts organization to fund a STEM curriculum project. The program is designed to reach 6,000 young women across the U.S. and introduce them to a variety of career ideas in the STEM fields.
Even though I had addressed 3,300 people at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students the night before, it was my interactions with these girls and their affinity for STEM education that impressed me.
Dr. Cora Marrett is Deputy Director of the National Science Foundation