Girls get inside look at STEM options

Girls get inside look at STEM optionsBy STACIE BAILEY

NAWCWD Public Affairs

“I’m often the only one or one of few women in a room full of men working to solve problems,” said Traci McCormick, head of Offensive Anti-Surface Warfare, to a roomful of female students.

“Women are still a minority in the engineering field, but every one of you has something unique to bring to problem solving. Don’t underestimate your abilities and your perspectives.”

Last month, McCormick joined Cmdr. Elizabeth Somerville, chief test pilot for Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 31, and Susie Raglin, Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division director of Corporate Operations, to welcome 126 middle school-aged girls to the 16th annual Expanding Your Horizons Conference at China Lake.

Coming from Ridgecrest, Lone Pine, Weldon and surrounding areas, the students enjoyed three of 16 science, technology, engineering and math-based projects.

For one hour each, they participated in workshops ranging from astronomy and architecture to chemical reactions and water rockets to get an idea of the many real-world applications of science, technology, engineering and math.

“It has been an honor to be able to contribute to this amazing event and I treasure the positive responses that we get every year from the attendees,” said Cathy Gonzalez, who’s worked as a volunteer, co-lead and planning chair for EYH. “For the girls I hope the conference has planted a seed that reminds them that they are capable of pursuing any career dreams that they strive to fulfill and, especially, that degrees in STEM subjects are for everyone.”

In addition to the workshops led by NAWCWD scientists and engineers, community professionals and military servicewomen, the girls heard from “Gadget Girl” spokeswomen; Allyson Kidd, Naval Criminal Investigative Service special agent, who shared her work with biometrics; and Elsa Hennings, senior systems engineer and parachute expert, who provided insight on parachutes and aircraft safety.

To close out the day, Salem Ali, a mechanical engineer at NAWCWD, shared her personal triumphs of helping create a prosthetic for a woman whose hand was severed in an accident and working with a team to develop solar charging stations for her university.

“You have to keep your head up high and realize your worth,” Ali told the girls. “You can all do it and I hope someone in your life has told you that you can do it. All you have to do is keep your head up high and be persistent. You can make a difference in this world.”

Pictured: The sky is the limit as students prepare to measure the altitude of a water bottle rocket during the Expanding Your Horizons Conference at the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division on March 4. -- U.S. Navy photo by Stacie Bailey

Story First Published: 2017-04-14