Event inspires girls to have fun with science

eyh (Download Image) More than 400 young women attended the 23rd annual San Joaquin Expanding Your Horizons conference, designed to spark girls’ interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Photos by Carrie Martin and Matt Dickerson

"Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," was a fitting motto for the 23rd annual San Joaquin Expanding Your Horizons (SJEYH) conference, where more than 400 young women, donning yellow-shirts and matching shades, converged on the University of the Pacific Campus in Stockton on Saturday, Oct. 10, excited to see science in action.

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 girls’ interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in a fun environment. Participants, spanning grades 6-12, came from across San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties in Stockton, Lodi, Manteca, Modesto and other rural communities, to attend the daylong event.

Guest speaker and former attendee Moriah Chace started off the day with an inspirational talk about how attending a workshop at SJEYH many years ago turned a dislike for math and science into a passion and changed the trajectory of her life.

"I learned that math isn’t boring," Chace said. "It’s applicable and something to use in our future and in our careers. Math has changed the way I view the world. Even when I told my first crush I liked him, I didn’t say, 'Hey I like you,' I gave him an equation that worked out to be I <3 u."


Chace reminded girls to forget about any preconceived notions they may have about math and science. "Embrace the day with open arms and an open heart," she said. "Our job here is not to create the next room full of Marie Curies; it’s for you to enjoy the day and for you to have fun."

Each participant attended three out of 24 hands-on workshops that were offered, including titles such as: Fun with Science, Bristle Bots, The Chemistry Behind Diaper Wars, Lego Mindstorms, Shrinkydink Microfluidics, Ubiquitous Electronics, DNA Extraction of Strawberries, Computer Repair and Networking and many more.

After lunch and the final workshop, coordinators showed a slideshow of photos from the day and distributed science kits and raffle prizes, including a Kindle Fire and Raspberry Pi kit, to participants. Many of those present had attended SJEYH before. Haleigh Petersen (Sierra High School), Araceli Valencia (Stagg High School/MESA Program) and Candice Lao (Sierra High School) received recognition by organizers for having attended the conference for all seven years.

The annual conference is coordinated by a core committee of volunteers with the help of 200 additional volunteers who work at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and Sandia National Laboratories, the University of the Pacific, along with other members of the community. More than 40 LLNL employees were involved in making SJEYH a successful event.

Jeene Villanueva, a computer scientist at LLNL, stepped up this year as SJEYH conference chair and has enjoyed her new role of leading the planning efforts. "I enjoy seeing the excitement this conference brings to the girls as well as the workshop presenters," Villanueva said. "We are already receiving questions about when the next conference will be, everyone is looking forward to it."

Special guests in attendance included: Joanna Albala, Education Program manager at LLNL; Darlene Barber-Martinez, vice mayor, City of Riverbank; Madeline Burchard, community relations at Sandia, California; Monya Lane, former associate director of Engineering at LLNL (retired); Maria Mendez, Stockton Unified School District Board of Education; Joe Nava, Lodi Unified School District Board of Education; Chiakis Ornelas, staff member of Congressman Jerry McNerney's office; and Monika Whitfield, director of operations for the Expanding Your Horizons Network.

Various sponsors that contributed giveaways, services and donations included: Nestle; Junior League of San Joaquin County; Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Women's Association (LLLWA); Manteca Junior Women's Club; Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; NASCO, Modesto; Sandia Women's Connection; SaveMart S.H.A.R.E.S. Program; Sandia/Lockheed Martin Foundation Gifts and Grants; Simplot J R Company, Lathrop; Society of Women Engineers/UOP; Stockton American Association of University Women (AAUW); Matthew Simpson, Karen Nakamura and Sharon Langman, LLNL and Deborah Burdick, UOP.

For more information, see the SJEYH website.

To view more photos of the event, see the San Joaquin EYH 2015 photo gallery.