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Early Exposure

Conference to Introduce Middle School Girls to STEM Fields

Participants in last year's Girls in STEM conference show their skills during a "Math-Based Card Tricks" workshop. (Photos by Mark Schmidt)

ALBANY, N.Y. (March 1, 2017) — More than 175 area girls in fourth through eighth grade are registered for this year’s Girls in STEM conference, being held on campus from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, March 4.

The free event, now in its second year, was spearheaded by Stephanie Conklin and Kelly Ryan, two New York State Master Teachers based at UAlbany. The conference is hosted by the Master Teacher Program in conjunction with the UAlbany’s division of Information Technology Services (ITS).

Conklin heads the Capital Region cohort of the NYS Master Teacher program’s professional learning team, which focuses on girls in STEM – science, technology, engineering and math. The group, hosted through the School of Education, decided last year to hold a mini-conference for girls in grades 4-8, and 80 girls participated in a variety of workshops, from Math Card Tricks to High-Tech Fashion.

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The STEM conference is designed to get girls interested in math, science and engineering, areas in which women are under-represented. 

The event was well received by both the girls and their parents, and this year’s event is full, with many more hopeful attendees on a waiting list. Saturday’s conference will begin in the Campus Center Ballroom and then move to classrooms in the School of Education and Humanities building.

Participants can choose two workshops from a wide variety of topics, including computer programming, geometric shape building, or learning about bees.

“The focus of our event is on engineering, design and coding as these are the areas in STEM where girls tend to be least represented at the college level,” Conklin said. “For example, we have high-tech fashion as well as math art coding.”

For a full list of the workshop, visit the website.

The conference is designed in a professional style with the same type of check-in and swag that one would receive at any conference. This year, the girls will participate in a warm-up activity of constructing the tallest tower possible out of straws and tape while waiting for the event to begin. Parents are welcome to stay, but not required to.

As the result of another Master Teacher event and the support of ITS, Nathalia Holt, author of Rise of the Rocket Girls, will be the keynote speaker. Altogether, some 350 people will be at the conference, including participants, parents, Master Teachers leading workshops and ITS personnel assisting.

“We are very pleased to participate in this event,” said Vice President and Chief Information Officer Simeon Ananou. “The Master Teacher program plays a critical role in attracting young women to the STEM professions. By introducing them to the many ways that science, math and related fields influence our daily lives, we hope to capture their imaginations while underscoring the educational prospects offered at the University.”

The Master Teacher Program was started in 2013 by Gov. Cuomo to recognize the outstanding secondary STEM teachers in the state. Teachers accepted into the program receive an annual stipend for four years in exchange for participating in a wide variety of professional development organized by the program.

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