Middle school girls explore STEM at CCC conference

Middle school girls explore STEM at CCC conference

At Contra Costa College last month, local middle-school girls played the part of crime scene forensics analysts, closely examining samples of lipstick taken from the scene of a mock crime. Meanwhile, girls nearby combusted methane and hydrogen to make a fiery reaction, while others explored techniques used by neurosurgeons to visualize the brain.

There were also really young geneticists bottling up DNA taken from their cheeks.

At the Chevron-sponsored Expanding Your Horizons conference on Friday, Dec. 8, local 7th and 8th grade girls worked with female scientists during a day-long event at Contra Costa College’s STEM Center.

In total, 92 students and 10 teacher/parent chaperones from Helms Middle School, DeJean Middle School, and Korematsu Middle School attended the conference, a partnership between Contra Costa College and the West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCCD).

Each girl participated in two 50-minute long hands-on workshops of their choice. The workshops focused on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Girls met STEM role models and learned more about careers in the fields.

The goal of the conference was to “increase the interest of young women in STEM through positive hands-on experiences, foster awareness of career opportunities in STEM careers, and provide young women with opportunities to meet and interact with positive role models who are active in STEM careers,” conference coordinator Nancy Barba said.

Andrea Bailey, community engagement manager for Chevron Richmond, called the conference a super exciting experience and one of many local STEM education investments by the company. Other recent investments include funding for the Fab Lab Richmond at Kennedy High, FOSS Kits for local elementary schools, the Chevron Fuel Your School program and STEM Zones at local professional athletics stadiums.

“One of Chevron’s goals both locally and worldwide is to attract more girls to STEM and recruit more girls to STEM careers, including as part of our ever-modernizing Richmond Refinery,” Bailey said.

Girls surveyed after the Dec. 8 conference said they indeed learned more about STEM careers, with most saying they hoped to participate in STEM-related activities in the future.