Newswise — Although women constitute nearly half of the American labor force, they make up a much smaller percentage of the nation's lucrative jobs in science, engineering and technology.
And according to a 2001 report on women in science and technology published by the National Council for Research on Women, while women and girls have made progress in the sciences over the last two decades, gains have stalled " and in some cases eroded " in engineering and computer-related fields.
Clarkson University hopes to help reverse this trend and remedy the imbalance by getting more middle-school-age girls interested in science and technology careers through the summer Horizon programs.
"Studies show that women have an aptitude equal to men in science and mathematics, yet few girls choose to pursue careers in these areas," said Program Director Bobbi Laird, a school psychologist and educational specialist. "Horizons are intensive residential programs designed to encourage and inspire girls at an important time in their lives, just as they begin to think seriously about identity, higher education and career pursuits. We offer them role models and empower them to see options where before they may have seen limitations."
Clarkson created the Horizon programs 18 years ago. Since then, more than 200 girls each summer are introduced to the excitement of science, math, engineering and technology through hands-on activities and team projects " from building working robots to mixing up magic in the laboratory.
Each year, Horizon I invites participating schools around New York state to nominate two girls enrolled in seventh grade who display an aptitude and strong interest in science and math. The program features an integrated curriculum, which includes science, mathematics and computer science, as well as workshops in career opportunities, personal development and leadership training. Theme and project-based activities provide entertaining, hands-on opportunities for understanding and reinforcing important scientific concepts.
Students learn about wetlands biology in the "Stomp in the Swamp" excursion and participate in an interactive chemical magic show, among other activities. The program culminates in a poster presentation of research projects.
Upon successful completion of the first-year weeklong program, students may apply to return the next year for Horizon II, a second week of exciting activities. The program features interactive projects in engineering, environmental analysis and robotics, along with further explorations of career opportunities, personal development, and leadership training.
"I came for Horizons I last year and really loved it," said Emily Morrison, a rising ninth grade student at Ogdensburg Free Academy in Ogdensburg, who returned this week for the Horizons II program. "The friends I made last summer are back again this year and I am having a great week. The program is more challenging this year, but still a lot of fun. I really like the robotics class."
Jaymie Merry, a student from Willink Middle School in Rochester, N.Y. also returned for a second week this summer. "It has been really great to meet other girls interested in some of the same things I am. Most of my friends back home are not as science- or tech-oriented as I am. I am interested in engineering and robotics but until I came to Horizons I didn't really know what kinds of jobs there are in these fields. "
In the end, according to Horizon Director Laird, the young women gain an understanding that "engineers are dynamic leaders and innovative, critical-thinking problem-solvers who enjoy exploring new things and want to help people."
The Horizon programs are sponsored by Clarkson's Pipeline Programs and Academic Success (PPAS) office that offers a continuum of programming from pre-college through graduate school to provide academic, cultural and social support for a wide range of under-represented students in science, mathematics, engineering and technology.
Clarkson University, located in Potsdam, New York, is an independent university with a reputation for developing innovative leaders in technology-based fields. Its academically rigorous, collaborative culture involves 2,700 undergraduates and 350 graduate students in hands-on team projects, multidisciplinary research, and real-world challenges. Many faculty members achieve international recognition for their scholarship and research, and teaching is a priority at every level. For more information, visit http://www.clarkson.edu.
PHOTO CAPTION: New York State middle school girls cheer on the robot they designed and programmed for a robotics competition held recently at Clarkson University. The design project and competition was part of Clarkson University's residential Horizon programs, which each summer introduce more than 200 girls to the excitement of science, math, engineering and technology through hands-on activities and team projects.