EYH conference inspires girls to consider science and math careers

It was no typical Saturday at the University of the Pacific in Stockton earlier this month when more than 400 young women wearing pink "Girl Power" T-shirts converged upon the campus excited to see science in action at the 21st annual San Joaquin Expanding Your Horizons (EYH) conference.

The goal of the conference, which is co-sponsored by Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC, Sandia National Laboratories and the University of the Pacific School of Engineering and Computer Science, is to spark interest in math and science for girls in grades 6-12.

The annual conference is coordinated by a committee of volunteers with the help of 300 additional volunteers who work at Lawrence Livermore and Sandia national laboratories, the University of the Pacific, along with other members of the community.

Participants came from across San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties in Stockton, Lodi, Manteca, Modesto and other rural communities to attend the daylong event that consisted of an opening ceremony, three different workshops, lunch, and a closing ceremony where coordinators distributed raffle prizes to excited participants.

The morning ceremony kicked off with a welcome message by Steven Howell, dean of the School of Engineering and Computer Science at the University of the Pacific. Howell welcomed attendees to the campus and talked about engineering and how engineers are problem solvers who work to make the world a better place.

"We benefit immensely from the work of engineers in so many ways (smart phones, automobiles, bridges, homes, etc.) that most people take for granted," he said.

Long-time EYH volunteer and Lab employee Karen Nakamura thanked the various sponsors that contributed giveaways, services and donations, which help make the event such a success. Nakamura then welcomed the following guests: Bonnie Cassel, school board member for Lodi Unified School District; Jeene Villanueva, president of the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory's Women's Association; Moses Zapien, council member for the City of Stockton and Amy Elliott Neumann, lawyer and board member for the Modesto City Schools Board of Education.

Neumann addressed an auditorium packed with girls offering words of encouragement and shared with them her four mottos for success: 1) Be fearless; 2) learn to roll with it; 3) find something you are passionate about; 4) think outside the box. "You are emerging young leaders in a world filled with new and difficult challenges. Start looking for opportunities where you and your skills can be used to make a difference at your school, your homes and in your communities."

More than 30 hands-on workshops were offered with titles including: Fun with Science, Bristle Bots, Green Power, Ubiquitous Electronics, Terrific Telescopes, Medicine 101, Solar Cars, and Computer Repair and Networking.

New this year was a physical and life science workshop, led by Lab retiree Nick Williams, where girls assembled their choice of four different science-based kits and then explained to the class the concept behind their kit.

"I think one of the best ways to get kids interested in science is the hands-on approach. If you can give the students hands-on science projects, or experiments that they can look at, touch, and assemble it will be very exciting for them and the science learning curve will be steeper," he said. Williams added, "Then, to see the excitement on the faces of students who have just learned or accomplished something new is as rewarding for me as it is for those students who just completed that science."

"Thank you for offering such a wonderful experience for these girls," Patricia Rios, a teacher at Oak View School in Acampo told a conference organizer about bringing a group of students to EYH. "The workshops were excellent. Oak View is a small country school where students are not often exposed to workshops like those presented here. It was a great opportunity for them to meet science professionals and new people from the surrounding area."

First-time EYH conference attendee Renae Wylie, a sophomore at Galt High School, said she was inspired by the passion for science that the presenters exhibited in their workshops. "Attending EYH was a positive experience because I learned about other career possibilities in math and science."

For more information go to the San Joaquin EYH Website. 2013 photos will be posted soon on the photo page.