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STEM is the spark of scientific inspiration

MANATEE — Nearly 200 girls from Manatee and Sarasota middle schools, specially selected by their math and science teachers, took part in the second Girls STEM Conference on Saturday at USF Sarasota-Manatee.

STEM — an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math — represents predominantly male fields.

Valerie Connors, the summit chair and a recent graduate of USF, had the vision to organize the STEM Conference as a way to bolster girls’ confidence, to encourage them and to give them fresh insight into possible career fields.

”I chose STEM because when I was a girl growing up, I had a high aptitude in math and science but was not encouraged to go into those areas.” Connors said.

With her new degree in interdisciplinary social sciences with concentrations in women’s study and social work, she wants to continue to work with and encourage girls. And she also wants to keep her hand in with STEM at USF to help keep the program going.

Jordan Boyer, 12, a sixth-grader at Haile Middle School, was impressed by the size and beauty of the USF campus and said she wants to go into a career where she can use her math ability.

She liked some of the hands-on activities, including a mini-chemistry lesson with Oobleck, a concoction made from corn starch, water and food coloring.

“If you poke Oobleck fast, it is a solid. If you poke it slowly, it’s a liquid,” she said.

Lynore Fontecha, a North Port resident, accompanied her 11-year-old daughter, Alexa, who attends Imagine School at Palmer Ranch, to the conference.

“I am always looking for more education and advice to give my daughters a better mindset, a better life and a better career,” Fontecha said.

The conference whetted her appetite for more, she said.

“It’s great having the extra information; now can we have some classes?” Fontecha said.

Connors said the registration for the conference was four times what it was in its inaugural year.

“I hope they are having a great time; I hope they find something that sparks them,” she said.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee Editor, can be contacted at 745-7021.

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