The UM-Dearborn Career Center hosted Girls Are IT! STEAM JAM 2017 on October 18. This half-day workshop targeted 50 middle school (grade 6-8) girls from Detroit Public Schools Community District. UM-Dearborn, Detroit Public Schools Community District, and Ford Motor partnered to deliver educational opportunities in STEAM for these students. These highly committed and cohesive teams worked together to make sure the following program objectives were met:
- Teaching girls to programming is fun, especially with robots
- Encourage girls to think of technology as a career path
- Create the connection that exists between what the students are learning in their schools and a career in technology
Under the leadership of campus content experts Robert Ward (Dearborn ITS) and Julia Walkuski (Mardigian Library IT), the students participated in hands-on sessions and were taught how to use Chromebooks to program Spheros and robots to achieve specific outcomes. IT professionals from Dearborn ITS and Ford also helped out to make sure it was a success.
Afterwards, Ford IT gave a team presentation “You Got IT Girl: A Career Discussion.” This included IT careers at Ford with skills employers look for, various jobs that require IT knowledge, and other topics pertinent to career education. And at the end of the day, Ford presented a technology package to the DPSCD teachers of Sphero and robotic kits along with instructions for classroom use with their students.
In addition, Taryn Sullivan, CEO of Dexter Industries, introduced the students to other aspects of technology. She presented a webinar on her career path, starting with a degree in Chinese Studies that lead her to a career in technology. Through this online, real-time presentation, the students were able to hear directly from a professional who sees the advantage of having a career in technology.
At the end of the Girls Are IT! learning experience, the students shared their learning and perspectives on careers in technology. As girls either went to the podium or spoke from their table, their learning and enthusiasm showed from their responses. They indicated what they learned about STEAM and how they better understood that it exists in most career fields. The general take-a-way was that they are encouraged to know that a career in technology exists, that it includes so many career possibilities, and that they think they can do IT!
Special thanks to Regina Storrs, director of the UM-Dearborn Career Center, for organizing the event! Because of the hard work and fun had by all, these girls began to understand the various opportunities and pathways to STEM-related careers and were able to explore educational pathways in higher education early.