Annual conference shows girls a path into STEM fields

The Colorado School of Mines student section of the Society of Women Engineers welcomed nearly 200 students—the largest turnout to date—to its fifth annual Girls Lead the Way conference, which guides young women into science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.

The conference, with the theme “Unlock the Mysteries, Make Discoveries,” took place Saturday, February 11, 2017, at Mines and brought in girls in grades 9 through 12 from all over Colorado and beyond.

The students attended two sessions in the morning. A panel of Mines SWE members representing various majors spoke about their classes and internships and the career opportunities in their fields, followed by a fashion show-style presentation on dressing appropriately for different professional situations.

In the afternoon, participants were able to choose two hands-on sessions based on their interests. Topics included aerospace, biomechanical engineering, metallurgy and materials science, petroleum engineering and robotics, among others. Previous conferences had only offered one such session, but attendees had wanted more because of their multiple interests and space limitations. "By adding a second session, we were able to give more girls more exposure to the types of disciplines they might be interested in," said Agata Dean, faculty advisor for the SWE section.

More than 120 parents attended a presentation by Jessica Whelehan on admission to Mines, financial aid and student life. Dean said parents had many great questions and provided positive feedback, including one who said the presentation “increased my knowledge about what is available at Mines.” This presentation was a new addition to the conference. At the end of the day, over 100 students and parents went on campus tours.

Kevin Moore, dean of the College of Engineering and Computational Science, sponsored students from underrepresented areas: 14 girls from Denver School of Science and Technology, 12 from Thornton High School and one from North High School. In addition, a donation from Mines alumna Rubecca Martinez allowed nine students to attend, mostly from Adams City High School.

Longtime corporate sponsors Aera Energy and BP continued their support for the event, and numerous Mines faculty, staff and students supported the conference as volunteers. Dean praised Olivia Cordova, this year’s director of Girls Lead the Way, for running the conference, which was also sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Section of SWE.

Contact:
Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 | ramirez@mines.edu
Ashley Spurgeon, Editorial Assistant, Mines magazine | 303-273-3959 | aspurgeon@mines.edu