STEM: Girl Scouts Learn to 'Think Like an Engineer'


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“Girl Scouting is all about girls having experiences from outdoor adventures to running their very own cookie business, to having new experiences, in STEM and so much more! Girl Scouts is where girls can practice different skills, explore their potential, take on leadership positions — and even feel allowed to fail, dust themselves off, get up, and try again,” said Becky Lunsford, community relations manager for Girl Scouts of the Southern Appalachians.

Girl Scouts of the USA has launched a new program of exciting activities to peak girls’ interests in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) career fields.

The 107-year-old organization is recognizing the shortage of women in STEM careers and hopes to change that trend. According to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor and Statistics, as of 2016, fewer than 15% of engineers and architects were women and only 25% of computer scientists and mathematicians. There continues to be a large disparity in these fields, so Girl Scouts of the USA has developed a new curriculum with activities, called journeys enabling girls to earn badges in categories like computer coding and programming, cyber security, engineering, science and more.

On Nov. 1, 38 Junior and Cadet Girl Scouts in grades 4 through 8 from the Tri-Cities, Maryville, Knoxville and Southwest Virginia met at Streamworks in Kingsport for the first ever “Think Like an Engineer Day.”

“There they learned all about the ‘design thinking process’ used in engineering where they designed something, tested it and then went back to the drawing board to improve it,” Lunsford said. The girls spent the day participating in three hands-on challenges utilizing this engineering process.

In the first challenge they learned how to build circuit boards and were eager to learn how to solder. Then they divided into teams and built highly technical underwater robots. “Streamworks has a pool to test the robots and some floated and some sank to the bottom,” Lunsford explained. “The girls were so amazed that some were interested in starting (an) all-girls underwater robotics team. So, we are now looking to start one!”

The Girl Scouts split into pairs for the third challenge and built an MIA robot using snap-together blocks made by VEX Robotics and powered by rubber bands. “They had a blast and had fun racing the robots against each other,” Lunsford said.

Participating Girl Scouts earned journey awards and a specially designed Streamworks patch during a closing ceremony at the end of the full day of activities. The council’s first STEM activity day was held back in October when King University in Bristol hosted Girl Scouts for a “STEM Badge Day,” to teach them about computer coding and cyber security.

There are several exciting events coming up for Girl Scouts in the area. On Feb. 8, 2020, Milligan College will host them for a “Think Like a Programmer Day.” “Medicine Safety Day” will be held at the ETSU Gatton School of Pharmacy on Feb. 22, and a “Girl Scouts Go to Medical School Day” is also planned at Quillen College of Medicine. Space is limited. To see more about the events and register, visit www.girlscoutcsa.org and serach for activities.

Know a girl who loves STEM or other activities who might like to become a Girl Scout? Interested families can contact the council office in Johnson City at (800) 474-1912 or visit www.girlscoutcsa.org to learn more.

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