Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics

It's a Girl Thing


What’s all the buzz about STEM? It’s the initiative in schools to emphasize Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics instruction from elementary grades through high school. With the support of the Beaufort Chapter of the American Association of University Women (AAUW), Laura Burcin submitted a proposal for a daylong workshop to introduce middle school girls to local professionals in the field. The chapter received a Program Development Grant with the Society of Women Engineers through a generous donation from the ExxonMobil Foundation. The workshop is co-sponsored with University of South Carolina Beaufort and Beaufort County School District.

Laura knows about STEM careers. She retired after a 30-year career in the aerospace industry, designing computers that can withstand the extremes of space, such as the computer systems on the Mars Land Rover. Her career was varied, from government contracts to civilian sales, and ending her last ten years working with “Women in Technology,” a corporate program working to encourage high school girls to pursue non-traditional, and often emerging, careers using science and math. Many large companies seek to find women to increase diversity in their workforce, offering good salaries and unlimited opportunities, but can’t find the college graduates to apply, she states.

The free workshop in February will be limited to 50 lucky girls enlisted through the four middle schools in northern Beaufort County: Lady’s Island Middle; Beaufort Middle; Whale Branch Middle and Robert Smalls International Academy. Information packets will be distributed through the schools. Parents, guardians and educators are urged to attend, too, as information sessions will be designed for the adults by USC Beaufort and Beaufort County School District administrators.

Dr. Elizabeth Brinkerhoff, associate professor at USCB states, “Girls need STEM educational opportunities and an early introduction to STEM career fields for multiple reasons.  First, female students are often more focused and eager to succeed in school, and, at times, their intelligence and dedication are unchallenged. Early educational experiences tremendously impact career choice for both female and male students. STEM education may provide opportunities for girls to develop their interests beyond traditional careers usually chosen by women.”

Dr. N’Kia Campbell, Director of Academic Initiatives at Beaufort County Schools agrees. “STEM education is so important for all students, but especially important for our female students. Research tells us that early STEM learning experiences for girls have a positive impact on their lives as women.”

Dr. Rebecca Cooper, president of the Beaufort Chapter of AAUW says, “AAUW has been a leading voice and advocate for promoting equity and education since 1881. Today we are actively serving as role models and cheerleaders, if you will, to foster, motivate and demonstrate that our girls are capable and can excel in math and science related careers.” Often women have not been informed about the endless possibilities in careers by not pursuing or receiving science, technology, engineering, or math degrees. Companies, however, are seeking these young women, and these jobs are increasing yearly. Even today, engineering professionals are only 15 percent female, and other disciplines are similar. These jobs are high paying, stable and allow a young woman to relocate anywhere in the world with her degree.

The South Carolina State Department of Education has recognized this “missing piece” of information for students for several years, and has attempted to remedy the lack of awareness with STEM labs and special STEM teachers with advanced certification to teach activities in a hands on, investigative, experimental setting. Mrs. Elandee Thompson, assistant principal at Battery Creek High School, and a former STEM lab teacher says, “STEM programs ensure early awareness and engagement for our girls, increasing the likelihood that more females (and other demographic groups) will pursue careers in these fields.”

Laura and her AAUW committee members are planning a great time in February. The girls will meet from 8:30-2:30 at the USCB Performing Arts Center, choose three interactive learning challenges taught by local professionals in the STEM fields, enjoy a free catered lunch, and receive a goody bag with a STEM T-shirt and other treats. Most importantly, she hopes they walk away with a dream.


From Left: Dr. N’Kia Campbell (BCSD Dir. of Academic Initiatives), Laura Burcin (AAUW SC STEM Dir.), Dr. Dereck Rhoads (BCSD Chief Instructional Services Officer), Chrissy Robinson (BCSD Director of Educational Technology), Katie Cox (BCSD Coordinator of Assessment), Dr. Rebecca Cooper (Pres., Beaufort AAUW)

Event Details: “Launch Your Future with STEM”
Date: Sat, February 11, 8:30-2:30
Place: USCB Performing Arts Center | 805 Carteret St., Beaufort, SC
Who can attend: North of the Broad Middle school girls, limited to 50 attendees, their parents or guardians, and any interested educators
For more information: Laura Burcin, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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