WKU hosts annual event for girls in STEM

The G.E.M.S (Girls Engineering Math and science.) program of 2018 took place in Ogden College on September 22 at 9:00 am and ended around 2:30 pm. The event allowed girls from the 4th – 12th grade. This program is in coordination with S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.) Making this day an enriching few hours of math and science. Chemistry Education Major Throcknorton guides student participant Makayla Autry in coming up with the best gameplan for her to put back together a pen the fastest.

Emily DeLetter

Girls from all over Kentucky participated in hands-on activities Saturday in an environment that allowed them to grow in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers and be surrounded by those with similar interests.

“Anytime that you can provide opportunities outside of the four walls of a classroom to ignite curiosity and show young girls the opportunities that they have, I feel like it’s imperative for us as educators and as women in STEM to pass that torch,” SKYTeach Master Teacher Melissa Rudloff said.

GEMS (Girls in Engineering, Math and Science) took place in Ogden and Snell Halls from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The event was open for girls in grades 4-12 to learn about career options and “feel empowered to try things in somewhat of a male dominated arena,” said Rudloff.


Following the keynote speaker session featuring students from Mercy Academy in Louisville, there were multiple breakout activity-based sessions for the attendees based on their age and developmental ability. These sessions were led by women and undergraduate students from WKU in STEM majors.

This year’s event was senior Madison Wells’ second year teaching a session for GEMS. Wells is a middle school science education major and said teaching the sessions is an experience she was always excited to participate in.

Her session, “Rockin’ Roller Coasters,” was engineering-focused and directed for high school girls. Participants were given a budget, materials and a time constraint and had to design and build a roller coaster out of paper.

“It’s fun meeting new students every year and learning from them as much as they learn from me,” Wells said.

Murfreesboro, Tennessee, junior KatieJo Kullmar is majoring in math education for middle school. She said she credits her great math teachers and interest in her school’s math club for starting her lifelong love of the subject.

“If something like GEMS had been available to me while I was in school that would have been amazing,” Kullmar said, “It would be a lot of fun to be with other girls who did math and were just as excited about it as I was.”

The Kentucky Science Center in Louisville brought some of its traveling equipment to set up an interactive science engagement session for attendees.

Adults were also able to participate in their own breakout sessions, which were led by a SKYTeach faulty member. These sessions featured a panel and adult-based STEM activities and conversations.

“We want to show [the girls] that there are no limits, and you can do whatever you set your mind to,” Rudloff said. “This is a tangible way to live out that philosophy and show off WKU as that opportunity with the wonderful resources they can provide in pursuing higher education.”

This year was Olivia Santangelo’s third year volunteering with the event, teaching the “Journey Through Earth” session. Santangelo, a senior in science and math education from Cincinnati, said she has enjoyed science for as long as she can remember. Her interest in earth science and climate change urged her to minor in geology and environmental science.

“I think it’s very cool to see girls so empowered by STEM that they can take a weekend and come down here to learn more about science,” Santangelo said. “I want these girls to be able to see all of their options in the different branches.”

Reporter Emily DeLetter can be reached at 270-745-6011 or emily.dele[email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @emilydeletter.