UW Hosts Women in STEM Conference May 16

teenage girl holding up model of a hand

Rhea Chaudhari, a Laramie High School student, displays a “working hand” she built using engineering design principles during a “NASA Micro-g NExT: Lunar Anchoring Devices” session taught by UW’s Cowboy Claw Senior Design Team at the 2022 Women in STEM Conference at the University of Wyoming. This year’s Women in STEM event is scheduled Tuesday, May 16, from 8:30 a.m.-2:15 p.m. at various locations on the UW campus. (Megan Candelaria Photo)

More than 530 junior and senior high school female students from across the state have already signed up to learn more about science and its various disciplines on the University of Wyoming campus.

The Women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) Conference, scheduled Tuesday, May 16, from 8:30 a.m.-2:15 p.m., is designed to spark students’ passion in STEM fields and provide the students with mentors and role models. The conference, now in its 23rd year, formerly was known as the Women in Science Conference.

“Our goal for this conference is to provide role models for young women and provide them with information about majors and careers in science, engineering, mathematics and technology,” says Megan Candelaria, an assistant research scientist in UW’s Department of Physics and Astronomy and associate director for the Wyoming NASA Space Grant Consortium.

While women make up around 48 percent of the workforce, Candelaria says women constitute only around 34 percent of the STEM workforce, and this difference is even more pronounced in fields such as engineering and computer science, where women make up around 20 percent to 25 percent of the workforce.

“Recent research has shown that having a more diverse representation in STEM fields benefits research, leading to new breakthroughs, deeper research and fresh perspectives,” Candelaria says. “By engaging them in hands-on STEM activities, often with a Women in STEM leader, we hope our conference helps young ladies see potential paths for themselves into a STEM discipline.”

The conference will offer 31 hands-on workshops. Each participant will engage in three workshops and have the opportunity to meet professionals who do “science” on a daily basis in their careers, Candelaria says.

Volunteers from UW and regional organizations will present workshops on a variety of science- and technology-related topics, including cyanotype lantern-making, falconry, pig dissections, wildlife diseases and transmission, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, cybersecurity, nature journaling and drawing, fossil conservation and preparation, plant immunity, coal-derived construction materials, amphibian conservation, studying wildlife using camera traps, the science of sugar, math outside of the classroom and a pathway to STEM teaching. Additionally, there will be admissions presentations and campus tours.

Currently, workshops are scheduled to take place in the College of Agriculture Building, Engineering Education and Research Building, College of Health Sciences Building, Geological Museum, Harry C. Vaughan Planetarium, Ross Hall, the Science Initiative Building and on Prexy’s Pasture.

“We also generally end up having sessions in the Physical Sciences Building, Michael B. Enzi STEM Facility, the Classroom Building and the College of Engineering Building,” Candelaria says, noting some campus locations still need to be scheduled.

Welcoming and closing remarks will take place in the Wyoming Union.

Major supporters of this year’s conference are not yet available, as donations are still being gathered, Candelaria says. Past contributors have included the Wyoming NASA Space Grant Consortium, a UW College of Arts and Sciences Inreach Grant, the UW College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, School of Energy Resources and Wyoming IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE).

To date, female students from the following communities and schools have registered to participate in Women in STEM:

— Casper: Centennial Middle School and CY Middle School.

— Cheyenne: Carey Junior High School, East High School, Homeschool/Lumos Academy, Johnson Junior High School, McCormick Junior High School and South High School.

— Cody: Rocky Mountain Homeschool Academy.

— Gillette: Twin Spruce Junior High School.

— Green River High School.

— Hanna: Hanna, Elk Mountain, Medicine Bow (HEM) Junior/Senior High School.

— Laramie Middle School.

— Mountain View Middle School.

— Saratoga Middle/High School.

— Yoder: Southeast Junior High School.

More schools are expected to register before the event, Candelaria says.

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