Equipping teenage girls to be scientists or engineers

Around the world, there is an underrepresentation of women in science and technology-related careers. In order to change that, a U.S. embassy recently gathered European and American girls to learn from experts from organizations such as Google, the digital-search division of Alphabet Inc.; Intel Corporation, a computer data firm; and NASA, the U.S. space agency.

As experts led the students in conducting science experiments and writing computer code, the girls simultaneously gained leadership skills.

Young women watching jet of water propel ball in air (© Capt. Grant Peehler/USMC)
Students learn about hydraulics and engineering projects, inspiring them to pursue science and technology careers. (© Capt. Grant Peehler/USMC)

The camp, called the “Women in Science / Girls STEAM Camp” — STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts & Design, and Mathematics — was the first of its kind held in the European Union.

Led by Girl Up, a leadership development initiative of the U.N. Foundation working to advance gender equality, and hosted by the U.S. Embassy in Tallinn, Estonia, the camp brought together 100 secondary school students from Estonia, Georgia, Latvia, Poland and the U.S.

The European Union reports that of their 18 million scientists and engineers, only 41 percent are women. The two-week program may well tip that just a bit, as 100 girls left the camp enthusiastic about those professions.

Students talking with leaders (© Capt. Grant Peehler/USMC)
Andrea Macfarlane, a United Kingdom Royal Air Force squadron leader, right, talks with students during a mentorship session at the camp. (© Capt. Grant Peehler/USMC)

The girls worked in small teams to propose viable technological solutions that would benefit their communities. “It really is incredible to see what happens” when a diverse profile of girls work together on a science and technology project, said Bailey Leuschen, director of programs at Girl Up.

Elizabete Bergmane, a camp participant, said that the camp not only provided invaluable education but also fostered what she expects will be lifelong friendships.

Participants posing together (© Capt. Grant Peehler/USMC)
Students at the Women in Science (WiSci) STEAM Camp for Girls in Tallin, Estonia, pose together. (© Capt. Grant Peehler/USMC)

Bergmane, a sophomore from Latvia, wants to become a surgeon and invent a lifesaving technology. “I got educated about the unequal rights of women in the field,” she said, but more important, “I got inspired to keep on working hard to reach my goals.”