Popular 'SMART Girls' Initiative Begins Second Year at College

Published 09.27.2001


By eighth grade, twice as many boys as girls show an interest in science, engineering and technology classes, according to a July 2001 report from the Commission on the Advancement of Women and Minorities in Science, Engineering and Technology.

In 1999, 56 percent of students taking advance-placement tests were women, but only 12 percent of those taking tests in physics and 10 percent of those taking tests in computer science were women, according to the National Council for Research on Women.

And, while women comprise 45 percent of the nation's work force, they hold just 12 percent of the lucrative science-technology jobs, according to the National Science and Technology Council.

To address this gender gap, Pennsylvania College of Technology is continuing its successful pilot program "Science, Math Applications in Real-World Technologies for Girls" (SMART Girls). The initiative exposes middle-school and high-school students to career options in emerging technologies while strengthening their foundation in math and the sciences.

Following the initial SMART Girls' sessions in March and June, the participants' interest was evident in their workshop evaluations, which requested more sessions, longer sessions and a longer day.

Their wishes have been incorporated into the latest SMART Girls event, which is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13. It will provide female students in grades 7-8 with hands-on opportunities to explore math and science as they "ground" technology.

Real-world applications will include everything from "The Power of Plastics" (learning about the properties of polymer materials and how they relate to processing applications), led by Anne K. Soucy, assistant professor of plastics technology; to "Cyber Challenge," (creating Web pages), led by Denise S. Leete, associate professor of computer science.

Other hands-on student workshops being offered are: "Computer-Aided Drafting" (exploring technical drawing by designing and detailing a three-dimensional part), led by Katherine A. Walker, department head and instructor of drafting/CAD technology; "Computer Demolition" (disassembling a computer and troubleshooting problems), led by Mary Jo Winder, coordinator of Internet services - and accompanied by her daughter, Veronica Bubb; "FLASH: Animation for the Internet" (making a computer image grow, bounce and spin), led by Patricia M. Coulter, assistant professor of computer science; "Seeing Green" (separating components of a mixture via chromatography), led by Kelly B. Butzler, instructor of chemistry; "Sludge: What Eats Waste?" (identifying the critters found in sewage), led by Debra A. Buckman, assistant professor of environmental technology; "Visualizing Mathematics" (using a graphing calculator to graph lines and curves), led by Nancy C. Bowers, associate professor of mathematics and Adelle M. Dotzel, assistant professor of mathematics; and "Risk: What Are You Willing to Take?" (an exploration of the environmental risks facing society), led by Buckman.

Several workshops are repeated during the day to increase participation opportunities. Other options include tours of Automated Manufacturing, led by John M. Good III, instructor of automation/computer integrated manufacturing; and of Construction and Design, led by Marc E. Bridgens, assistant dean of construction and design technologies.

The agenda includes sessions for parents who wish to accompany their daughters. Laboratory activities will apply math and science concepts to problem-solving activities in technological career fields, and small class sizes will enhance participation and attention.

Parents will also have the option of attending a presentation on financial planning for college, led by Phillip D. Landers, professor of business administration, and another on the graphing calculator, led by Bowers. Other parent workshops include a session on supporting your daughter's technical career and a visit to Penn College's Victorian House, which was designed and constructed by students.

Parents and students also may attend a luncheon in Le Jeune Chef Restaurant on the main campus. The keynote speaker for the luncheon will be Mary Ann Eisenreich, who serves as board treasurer for "Women Work! The National Network for Women's Employment" and as state director for "Pennsylvania Women Work!"

Working with faculty will be student members of the Women in Technology campus organization. Also assisting throughout the day will be volunteers from the New Choices/New Options career-development programs at Penn College to encourage women to consider all their options before making career decisions.

Students must submit a registration form endorsed by a math or science teacher. Registration is limited to the first 50 girls. A $10 fee will cover the cost.

A repeat of the Oct. 13 SMART Girls event for seventh- and eighth-grade girls will be offered on Saturday, April 6. A residential session for girls entering grades 9-10 will be offered at Penn College next July 14-17. Details will be announced.

More information is available by phone, (570) 327-4502; or by fax, (570) 321-5545. Penn College's toll-free number is 1-800-367-9222.

Registration forms and other information also are available on the Web.