Carmel’s Fem in STEM event encourages young girls to pursue science fields – Shaw Local

MUNDELEIN – Alyssa Mullally knows what it’s like to be one of the only females in an engineering class.

The senior at Carmel Catholic High School in Mundelein wants all girls interested in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, to know they’re not alone.

That’s why she and fellow Carmel senior Isabella Pagano co-founded the club Fem in STEM as freshmen in 2018. The club grew out of an inaugural girls-only Introduction to Engineering class offered at Carmel. The class filled up fast despite low female enrollment in other STEM classes at Carmel.

“We realized a lot of the girls at school were intimidated,” said Mullally of Lake Villa.

Class members made it their mission to break the stereotype of science, technology, engineering and math being dominated by men.

Mullally and others who took the class – designed to offset low female enrollment in STEM classes at Carmel – wanted to do more.

“We know the STEM field has historically low female representation,” said Mullally, who has earned a scholarship to study biomedical engineering at the University of Cincinnati after high school graduation. “We created this club to help girls with interests in all different STEM fields to come together and support one another.”

On April 2, the 20-member club organized and hosted a day’s worth of STEM-related workshops, drawing at least 100 second through eighth grade girls to Carmel Catholic High School.

The event included hands-on activities, such as lava lamp construction, scavenger hunts, escape rooms, oil spill cleanup, coding and more. The workshops explored scientific concepts, including chemistry, math, biology, physics, coding, weather and climate and engineering and design.

“This was totally student conceived and run,” said Erin Major, the club’s adviser. “The girls are very passionate about making sure other girls feel comfortable in STEM.”

A teacher of many STEM subjects, including computer science, engineering, calculus and robotics, Major said she’s taught classes in which she’s the only female in the room. Two of her current classes have only one female student.

Events such as the Fem in STEM workshops show young girls that “they can do this, and it’s fun, and it’s definitely a career path they can take,” Major said.

Carmel’s Fem in STEM club has hosted the event twice. A goal is to empower young women to explore STEM classes and pursue STEM fields.

“I actually hated science and math when I was a kid,” Mullally said. “I would rather go to English or just read a book. I was not a fan and told myself I could not do it. ”

That all changed when Mullally took part in a Science Olympiad event in seventh grade and had to make a Rube Goldberg machine, a chain reaction-type machine or contraption named after American cartoonist Rube Goldberg. The machine is intentionally designed to perform a simple task in an indirect or overly complicated way.

Mullally found the project both fun and creative and soon discovered a new perspective on STEM.

She said she appreciates the teamwork and problem-solving that goes into engineering and science, and she wants to pass that same appreciation onto younger girls.

“We are the role models for the next generation of STEM,” Mullally said.

“Engineering and technology are usually intimidating words for kids in general. We showed them it can also be a lot of fun. There’s a creativity that goes into all of these fields they might not have realized before because they’re just intimidated. ”

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