By Jade Inglada
Select female high school students from the surrounding area have the opportunity to be part of the Engineering and Technologies Department’s “ELAC Ladies in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics)Program” which began last Saturday.
Associate Professor and Department Chair Jose C. Ramirez started the program. “STEM is a male dominated field. For the 85 percent of men in this field, there’s only about 15 percent women,” Ramirez said.
During the six-day program, students will learn about careers in STEM and have hands-on experience building rockets and mini circuit boards with instructors Brian Vazquez and Eddie Villanueva.
Ramirez received $25,000 from the Deputy Sector Navigator (DSN) Bruce Noble of the Rio Hondo Community College District through the DSN Energy, Efficiency and Utilities grant. Ramirez had to follow set guidelines that came with the funding to create the program, but had the freedom to do what he wanted.
“I want girls to know about the opportunities that are out there, to encourage them to explore their interests,” tutor Stephanie Cash said.
Cash is one of seven tutors involved in the program. “I want to encourage them to continue with math and science because there are so many fields in engineering, that whatever their interests are, there is a way to get involved in STEM.”
The participating students will be tracked throughout the rest of their time in high school and through college to see how they progress and if they pursue careers in STEM fields.
Cash enjoyed working with the students and was impressed by how fast they caught on to programming.
“It was fun when they got their robots moving and circuits lighting up by what they had coded,” Cash said. “I hope these experiences will not only spark their interest, but to stay with them when their studies get tough. I hope they come away from this knowing that science, math and technology are within their reach.”
There will be a field trip on Dec. 13 to Lucerne Valley to launch the rockets the students created. Although the students are underage and cannot launch their rockets, they are allowed to be present to watch, said Ramirez.
Before the program ends, students will get to talk and hear from professional engineers from the Latinas in STEM Foundation.
The students involved in the program will receive one unit of credit upon completion under Electronics 185.
Ramirez is already planning the program again for the upcoming semester with the same type of program directed toward middle school girls. The program will be downsized into shorter sessions so it lasts longer.
According to Ramirez, his goal is to maintain the program until it becomes part of ELAC and until he no longer has to apply for the funding from Noble.
Each student received a small kit containing materials that will help them during the program such as a USB flashdrive to keep their work.