Girl Powered Workshops Celebrate International Day of the Girl with Local Community

Participants worked on two activities where they designed a paper chute for pom-poms and created catapults out of popsicle sticks.

In celebration of the International Day of the Girl, the Oliver Wendell Holmes Library (OWHL) and the Brace Center for Gender Studies co-hosted the first Girl Powered Workshop for girls in fourth through twelfth grades on October 16. Andover students joined twenty-five middle and elementary school girls in building model catapults and rollercoasters in The Nest.

According to the Girl Powered website, the Girl Powered Workshops are meant to engage and inform young women about STEM and robotics through a variety of means, including hands-on activities and robotics demonstrations. With girls representing only 23 percent of VEX participants and women comprising only 24 percent of the STEM workforce, these efforts aim to make STEM and robotics more inclusive.

The website writes, “This initiative is intended to bring all students who are interested together, to show them that they are welcome in the robotics community. Like many others, we believe in the power of diverse creative teams, and as such, we want to make sure our programs attract as many students interested in STEM as possible. To accomplish this goal, we want to help our community recognize and overcome some of the societal obstacles that present themselves for girls at a very early age. By identifying the common barriers that exist, we can break them down and work to create a more inclusive environment.”

Carol Artacho Guerra, Instructor in Physics, was one of the main organizers of the event. She explained how the planning had been in the works since early in the fall.

“We started [planning] this maybe a month ago or so. This is actually a national event where the RNC Foundation and Vex Robotics is sponsoring a [number] of girl powered workshops all over the country to celebrate the International Day of the Girl. So [we] started doing a lot of advertising as [the] school year started because it’s mostly a school based [event]. We started early September [to] set up the workshop,” said Artacho-Guerra.

Emma Slibeck ’20 spoke in a group of student panelists, sharing her experiences as a girl in STEM. She appreciated the event because of the exposure it gave to the younger girls and especially noticed their focus on the activities.

“I didn’t notice when I got into high school that [STEM] isn’t something that’s encouraged for girls a lot… It’s not as encouraging as it is for boys. And so I thought it was super awesome that we have this place where we were encouraging girls to get into this space and make things… They were also super creative and wanted to get in and do things with their hands,” said Slibeck.

Along with Slibeck, CC Song ’21 spoke on the student panel. Song believes that it is important to give young girls the opportunity to explore their interests in STEM and that she has a role in encouraging them to do so.

“I decided to take part in the workshop because encouraging young girls to find their own love for STEM is something that means a lot to me and in some ways I feel like I have a responsibility to pass on to our next female scientists, engineers, makers, and more… I think it is incredibly important to celebrate the International Day of Girl through STEM because STEM related fields are only growing more and more and we all need to make sure that women will be properly represented in our future workforce,” said Song.

Both Song and Slibeck noted the importance of female representation in STEM. Holding events like the Girl Powered Workshops in the context and celebration of the International Day of the Girl allows young girls to recognize that STEM and girls can go hand in hand, despite what social norms may dictate.

“We often don’t associate STEM with something that girls are allowed to do or be good at. And it’s super important that we are encouraging girls to be in STEM because STEM is also the future. Girls are just as capable and that isn’t something that we’re told enough. It’s important to reinforce that loving STEM and being a girl aren’t two things that contradict each other. And it’s not that you love STEM in spite of being a girl. You love STEM, and you’re a girl,” said Slibeck.