Sierra College Nontraditional STEM Event Inspires Girls

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Sierra College faculty inspired high school girls to pursue STEM Education and technical careers at the first hands-on Nontraditional Employment for Women (NEW) event held at the Rocklin CA campus.

Girls can succeed in nontraditional STEM careers and make a difference for their families, community and the world.

The Sierra College first Nontraditional Employment for Women (NEW) event inspired high school girls to consider Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Education and technical careers.
Held at the Rocklin, California campus on April 19, girls from Roseville, Nevada City, Truckee and communities in between visited labs, worked on projects and discussed careers. The 75 female students had a choice of Automotive, Applied Art & Design, Drafting and Engineering Support, Mechatronics, Photography, Technical Theater and Welding.

Small groups, hands-on STEM projects, female role models, encouraging professors and a warm welcome were all part of the strategy to inspire girls at the NEW event, according to Carol Pepper-Kittredge, Director, Sierra College Center for Applied Competitive Technologies (CACT) .

“We wanted these girls to know that they can succeed in nontraditional STEM careers and make a difference for their families, community and the world,” said Pepper-Kittredge. “The NEW event was designed to engage girls, and help see themselves attending Sierra College and taking Career Technical Education (CTE) classes.”

In the Welding lab, girls bent metal into vases and welded the sides together, attached a metal flower in the vase and then painted them. The girls also connected via Skype with Jessi Combs, welder, fabricator and television personality appearing on All Girls Garage and Overhaulin’ as a host and ‘A-Team’ hybrid member on the Velocity Channel. Combs encouraged the girls and told them that there are fantastic opportunities in welding although they need to be prepared for some chauvinism.

“Being a fabricator is fun, amazing and empowering but you’ll need to put on your thick skin to face opposition on a daily basis,” said Combs. “You can accomplish anything, if you are focused and determined, believe in yourself, and get education and certifications that will give you confidence.”

She also told the girls to take math. “Right now, I have five measuring tapes sitting on my desk. I use trigonometry all the time. Math makes sense when you apply it to projects. Practice your math... and English,” urged Combs.

After welding, girls reported: “I thought I could do only certain jobs but now I know that I can also do physically and mentally challenging jobs,” “I have clearer direction of ways to do well in an industry that I am interested in,” and “It gave me a chance to try something in a comfortable setting.”

Students made LED flashlights in Mechatronics learning to test components and solder before assembling them. Michael Halbern, Mechatronics Department Chair, thought the girls were very focused on the project. “The experience demonstrated to them that they are just as capable of performing tasks in Mechatronics classes as men,” said Halbern. “Some of these young women may now look at Mechatronics as a path to a successful career.”

In Drafting and Engineering Support, instructor Alison Salome guided girls in making 3D designs and then they watched additive manufacturing equipment making products. Students reported: “At first I wasn’t sure what path to get on for a future. Now I’m interested in drafting,” “You can pursue any path you choose,” and “It changed my thinking because now I am very interested in Engineering and Architecture.”

With Computer Information Systems faculty member Annette Nylander, students explored project management, discussed motivation and learned how software is used for project management that can save lives, solve world problems and run businesses. Denise Bushnell, CTE Committee Faculty Chair, dropped in to encourage the girls. “My background in computer information systems has opened up opportunities for me,” said Bushnell. “There are so many careers in technology and I urge you to consider coming to Sierra College.”

The NEW logo was designed by Chihiro Machiya, a Sierra College student. T-shirts with the logo were given to all the participants and were made possible through NEW event sponsors: RuffStuff Specialties, Animal Medical Center, Big Horse Works, E.V. Cain STEM Charter Middle School, Harris & Bruno International, Kent & Darlene Jackson, Valley I.T. Support and Roseville/South Placer American Association of University Women (AAUW).

About Sierra College STEM
The Sierra College NEW event was supported by Career Technical Education Perkins funds and the Sierra STEM Collaborative, funded by California Community College Chancellor’s Office, to create a pipeline of female students interested in technical careers. For information, go to or contact Carol Pepper-Kittredge, director, Center for Applied Competitive Technologies, Sierra College, at (916) 660-7801.

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