STEM conference inspires girls to think big

Published 10:35 pm Saturday, January 12, 2013

Robyn Carter, a female engineer, shows off what happens to inflated balloons, marshmallows and a tea kettle when liquid nitrogen is poured over them. More than 250 young women attended the STEM conference at Wallace Community College on Saturday to learn more about STEM careers.

Women are less likely to enter into STEM career fields than men in 2013, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. The STEM career fields of science, technology, engineering and math, are still dominated by men and this leads some to believe that this is a main reason for the remaining salary gap between genders in America.

But one organization in Selma is working to change that and inspire young African American girls to pursue these STEM fields. The Selma Alumni Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. with the help of Wallace Community College Selma, held a STEM conference Saturday that allowed young women to explore these fields.

“We want these girls to have an awareness, an understanding, a beginning, a desire to know more — an interest and questions they can ask to stimulate growth,” Althestein Johnson, STEM conference committee chair for Delta Sigma Theta said. “This will allow them to be around mentors and they can look at these accomplished presenters and be like them too. They can not only show them where they are but also where they once were. “

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Johnson said the conference on Saturday was open to all girls in the Black Belt region, and Delta Sigma Theta also has a program, Delta Academy, for local girls throughout the year. The sorority has five service areas they seek to work in and education is just one of those areas.

The STEM conference on the WCCS campus Saturday allowed the girls to hear a keynote speaker as well as travel to workshops throughout the day to learn more about STEM careers and as be inspired by the presenters who were professionals in the areas of science, math, technology and engineering presently.

Some girls in the classroom for engineering screamed and clapped as their presenter, Robyn Carter, demonstrated how different types of matter interact by using liquid nitrogen.

“These girls are very fortunate to have an organization like the Selma Alumni chapter of Delta Sigma Theta to work with them and especially work with them in the area of STEM,” Dr. Paulette Dillworth said, who was the keynote speaker from Auburn University and spoke to the conference about daring to be different.

Dillworth, a native of Selma, encouraged the young girls to read and to journal as well as to explore the world of STEM.

“Typically girls are not steered into such careers,” Dillworth said. “Historically the conversation was around caring fields, like nursing and teaching. So it is important to have experiences like this, so that they can start to think and see things differently and also imagine a different future for themselves.”

Delta Sigma Theta in conjunction to the STEM conference, is celebrating their centennial year throughout the coming week. They unveiled a billboard on Broad Street Saturday as a message to the community about their service.