CEDAR CITY – Robotics, coding and 3D printing were just some of the activities more than 140 high school girls had an opportunity to explore Monday during the SheTech Explorer Day program.
The event, held on Southern Utah University campus, brought in several regional and national tech companies to provide girls from rural areas hands-on experiences and mentoring in areas of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
A similar event, hosted by the Women Tech Council, has been held in northern Utah for four years but this was a first for Southern Utah. Girls from 15 different high schools were represented at the event.
“This is a really cool way to come and see a bunch of different technologies and mentors” Cydni Tetro, president and founder of the Women Tech Council, said. “We had everything today (Monday) from robotics to 3D printing to circuits to airplanes to solar.”
In recent years Utah has been coined Silicone slopes for the influx of high-tech companies moving in to the area. The growth, however, has drawn concern from state leaders who are worried the current workforce does not contain enough skilled workers to fill these jobs, Tetro said.
Part of the goal of the SheTech event is to help build a future workforce from one of the state’s untapped talent pools – women.
“We have thousands of open high-tech and engineering jobs as a state that we can’t fill,” Tetro said, “and 50 percent of our workforce are women. So we need these young women to be interested in technology so we can fill that economic pipeline.”
Students in attendance at Monday’s event were able to participate in activities like robotics, coding and 3D printing. For many of them, the experiences took them beyond traditional science to be able to have a glimpse into the high-tech world.
As a sophomore at Delta High School, Shaylee Shepard has been working in technology through the Aspirations program at SUU but said the SheTech event opened her eyes to even more possibilities. With a dream of someday working in biomedical to develop prosthetics using 3D printing, Shepard said Monday’s activities gave her more confidence in her own abilities.
“What I learned today was personal for me because it helped me realize my own abilities, things I am capable of with technology that I didn’t know before,” Shepard said. “I also realized all these new things I can get involved in and how many companies are out there for me to go to work at that I didn’t know before today were available.”
Shepard said she was excited to see so many girls at the event as she is often the lone female in technology and science classrooms.
“It was neat to see so many girls here,” Shepard said. “Today really motivated me to want to pursue my dreams.”
For Iron County high school student Zamayra Rodriguez, 18, the most exciting part of the day came when the girls got a chance to participate in the hands-on experiences.
“I like to figure out how things work,” Rodriguez said. “So today, we got an opportunity to see how several things work and have that hands-on experience to not only learn about technology in a text book but with actual experiments which makes me even more excited.”
Like Shepard, Rodriguez said the SheTech event helped her realize the unlimited opportunities available to her in the future.
“I was encouraged by one of my teachers to come and I’m really glad I did because I learned so much and that there are so many opportunities out there that I wasn’t aware of that I can do in the future. It highly encouraged me.”
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