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Science, technology summit puts spotlight on area girls

Do you think that girls don’t like math and science? University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee student Valerie Connors politely disagrees and can prove it.

She organized the new Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Summit on June 20 and almost 70 middle-school girls happily gave up sleeping late during summer vacation to learn more about careers in these traditionally masculine fields.

The STEM program is a project of the American Association of University Women and Valerie was determined to bring the program to the area after learning about it at an AAUW conference. She enlisted the support of the local AAUW chapter and her dean, Dr. Jane Rose, and was off and running.

Dr. Ellen Prager, noted marine scientist and author, was the keynote speaker. She obviously made an impression on the young girls since many of them said that they hoped to be a marine biologist when they grow up. In fact, Angelica Lopez said that she had planned to be a veterinarian but now was considering a career change.

Several participants from Manatee County’s Just For Girls attended the session called “Are You Smarter Than a Fourth-Grade Boy?” led by local USF professor Dr. Sunta Lodwig. Alyssa Rodriguez, Victoria Lindsey and Whitley Davis all answered the question with a unanimous “of course.”

In addition to the breakout sessions, the girls participated in some hands-on science experiments conducted by Manatee County native Karen Malesky. The afternoon concluded with a salsa lesson. Hey, even girl scientists just wanna have fun!

Susan Wilcox, a Florida native, has lived in Bradenton for more than 20 years.