Waukesha Girls Experience STEM Fun and Learning
Middle schoolers from Waukesha STEM Academy visit MSOE for STEM and college experiences, thanks to a partnership with GE Heathcare.
“Let’s think about lift. What makes a plane lift?” Teacher Laurie Probst asked. Probst, a 6th grade teacher at Waukesha STEM Academy was in her element, if not in her usual classroom.
“A wedge,” answered one of 25 middle school girls visiting Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) for a girls-in-engineering week.
“Good!” Probst said enthusiastically. “What shape makes a wedge?”
“A triangle!” Another girl answers confidently.
And so were the beginnings of a lesson in aerodynamics for the Waukesha girls at MSOE. Probst, a small-plane pilot in addition to being a teacher, was fluent in the concepts of aerodynamics.
In an experience that blends STEM instruction and college life, the girls built mini foam planes and launched them in the student commons at MSOE. A mix of hands-on learning and pure fun, the lesson had the girls laughing and learning.
Besides making foamy flyers and learning about aerodynamics, other activities of the day included making balloon towers and visiting the MSOE Rapid Prototyping Center.
Starting Monday, the girls were participating in week of STEM classes at MSOE designed to give them hands-on experiences in STEM careers and a taste of a college campus. The program, GE Girls at MSOE, is sponsored by GE Healthcare Women’s Network in collaboration with MSOE and the Waukesha STEM Academy.
The students will be bused daily to MSOE where they will get instruction from Waukesha STEM Academy teachers and MSOE faculty. Throughout the week, daily lessons will focus on construction, programming, electronics, healthcare and chemistry.
The GE Healthcare curriculum includes activities featuring medical technologies, physiology and biomedical engineering. Girls will have the opportunity to experiment with X-ray physics, operate ultrasound technology, and measure metabolic function with real medical devices.
Before the week is over, each of the girls will also meet an accomplished female mentor from the GE Women’s Network, primarily with engineering or technology backgrounds.
It’s the first time the program is taking place in Milwaukee. Last year, GE also held the GE Girls at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) in Massachusetts. This year, they’re also offering the program at Rensselaer (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) in New York.
For GE Healthcare, the goal is to keep girls interested in engineering at an age when they’re losing interest, according to Dee Mellor, GE Healthcare’s vice president and chief quality officer, and executive champion of the GE Women’s Network, an employee group that provides leadership development, advancement and career broadening opportunities.
“We realized we needed more representation of women in the STEM areas because it’s vital to our long-term success as a company,” Mellor said.
They also realized that it was crucial to engage the girls at the middle school level because it’s at this age that they tend to lose interest, she said.
“It’s about going in and getting them excited about engineering, actually showing them the hands-on application of multiple disciples we have,” she said. Mellor has a personal and professional interest in helping recruit girls to the engineering field.
“My dad was the one that inspired me. But not every young girl has that opportunity. We just don’t have enough of our young girls going through the pipeline. And they’re capable,” she said.
The week provides MSOE with an opportunity to reach younger girls and introduce them to STEM careers, gives them an opportunity see the campus, increases their interest in engineering and strengthens MSOE’s relationship with GE.