Upper St. Clair hosts Women in STEAM
Nearly 30 Upper St. Clair High School students and seven professionals participated in the school’s inaugural Women in STEAM event on April 6, 2017. The event, organized by science teacher Douglas Petrick, was designed to make female students more aware of career opportunities in the fields of science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.
The Women in STEAM event featured three components: the speakers presented a short five to 10 minute informal talk about their journey from the high school level to where they are today; rotating round table discussions that provided opportunities for small group interaction; and an informal luncheon.
“Upper St. Clair School District is constantly searching for ways to inspire students,” Mr. Petrick said. “The purpose of the event was to inspire students with the stories of each Woman in STEAM's personal journey.”
The panel of speakers encompassed a wide-range of experiences and career positions. Each speaker had a different journey, which resonated with students.
The seven women in STEAM professionals who participated in the event included Alicia Avick, president of Advantus Engineers; Kathyn Schaffer, research chemist for PPG Industries; Alanna Colvin, quality assurance engineer at Westinghouse; Meghan Roe, marketing manager for PPG Industries; Kaitlyn Shields, computer engineering student at the University of Pittsburgh; Michelle Gilboy, agile transformation coach at Summa Technologies; and Caroline Harris, Ph.D., senior research manager for PPG Industries.
“Students were excited to hear similarities between the speakers and themselves,” Mr. Petrick said. “They enjoyed hearing about the diverse backgrounds of each of our seven speakers and were inspired by similarities between a speakers’ paths and their own.”
Students indicated that it was helpful to know that not every speaker knew during their high school and early undergraduate schooling where their career trajectory would take them.
“Students were surprised to hear how unique each speaker's journey was – while, some of the speakers knew from an early age that they wanted to pursue a STEAM career, and others did not,” Mr. Petrick said. “Some speakers had people of influence along the way who encouraged them, and others did not. No matter what the experience was, each speaker had a similar theme of learning by doing, trying something you are passionate about, and not letting someone else's preconceived notations deter you from your goals.”
Mr. Petrick believes opportunities such as the Women in STEAM event, which enable students to hear and learn from role models within different careers and industries, are important for the future workforce.
“Everyone finds inspiration in different places, and this event served as a jumping off point for that journey,” Mr. Petrick said. “This event allowed female students the opportunity to ‘see it to be it.’”
In addition to Mr. Petrick, the event was supported by Lynn Kistler, science teacher and curriculum leader, and Dr. Tim Wagner, associate principal for program planning and innovation. Additionally, Petrinis Promos donated portfolios and pens to the event that the students and speakers used to take notes and Wiley Publishing donated funds to help defray the cost of lunch.