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Friday, May 7, 2021

GEMS event aims to get more girls into science

Olivia Shawen paints a poster to be used as the background for a photo-booth at the GEMS Fair, Thursday, May 28. Shawen was one of the lead student coordinators who helped organize the event. // Photo by Kesia Lee
Olivia Shawen paints a poster to be used as the background for a photo-booth at the GEMS Fair, Thursday, May 28. Shawen was one of the lead student coordinators who helped organize the event. // Photo by Kesia Lee

Young women and girls are in the spotlight for all things technology at Western’s first Girls in Engineering, Math and Science Fair [GEMS] this Saturday, May 30.

At the event, former astronaut Wendy Lawrence and Bellingham veterinarian Wendy Zawoysky will be among those who present.

Andrea Frost, a computer science graduate who will present at the fair, said multiple Western clubs will hold info booths and robotics demonstrations to inspire a love for technology in more young girls.

Manager of Youth Programs Debbie Gibbons said the idea for the GEMS Fair has been on her mind for years after she noticed a decrease in the number of girls who choose science, technology, engineering and mathematics [STEM] classes at Western.

Frost said this decrease derives from certain events at a young age.

“It starts when we are very young, with the pink clothes for girls with rainbows, butterflies and princesses,” Frost said in an email. “As early as fourth or fifth grade, school girls encounter the stereotype that ‘girls aren’t good at math,’ which is quite obviously false, yet those words still sink in.”

Frost said the ultimate goal of GEMS is to get girls interested in the sciences to diversify the field.

“In the coming years there will be 1.2 million tech jobs available and we need all people from all the various diverse groups in the world to be involved in creating appropriate solutions,” she said.

Gibbons said the attendees will get to see demonstrations of equipment they don’t have in their public schools, like electron microscopes and underwater remotely operate vehicle.

“College students can inspire younger students much more [than older persons can],” Gibbons said.

Junior Greg Murashige, a computer science major, thinks the GEMS Fair will be beneficial and could help change the environment of future STEM classes. Computer science is known to be a field consisting of mainly males, he said.

“It will make the classroom more diverse,” Murashige said.

Gibbons said the GEMS Fair wouldn’t have been possible without the help of the Extended Education Program, members of student clubs and student employees that have worked together to create the event.

On Saturday, May 30, Western’s Youth Programs will host the GEMS Fair from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.in the Academic Instructional CenterWest with check-in on the main floor of the building.

Families are required to sign up on the Youth Program’s website to register for the event.

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