If you are a girl in grades six through 12 who is interested in math or science, the University at Buffalo’s North Campus was the place to be last Saturday for the eighth annual Tech Savvy Conference. Tech Savvy is a program designed to introduce girls into traditionally male-oriented careers. This year’s theme was “Tech Savvy Girls … we won’t stop until we reach our dreams.” Tech Savvy is sponsored by the American Association of University Women along with Praxair, UB’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and WTS.
Tech Savvy’s mission is to stress the importance of supporting girls in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and introduce them to successful female role models.
The keynote speaker was Dr. Anne Roby, president of Praxair Asia. She is a chemical engineer who faces the challenges of being a female in a generally male-oriented field. In college, she said, one of her professors tried to discourage her from being a chemical engineer, telling her that it was a man’s job and that she would only distract the guys she would be working with. She went on to prove him wrong by graduating at the top of her class.
When asked why she wanted to be a chemical engineer, Roby said, “I always loved solving word problems and puzzles.”
She said that when looking for a job, people must find something they are passionate about.
“The trick is to translate your passions into a career,” she said.
“I like that I can make a difference and solve real world problems,” Roby added.
She encourages girls to explore as many careers as possible and to not be discouraged if someone tells them it is a “man’s job”.
Tamara Brown is the founder of Tech Savvy.
“I thought, if we can introduce the fun and value of STEM to girls, you break the first barrier contributing to low rates of women in STEM,” Brown said.
In 2011, Brown was invited to the White House and given the “Champion of Change” award for her efforts and achievements.
About 500 girls, their parents and teachers attended Saturday’s conference. Girls in grades six through nine attended workshops such as “Ice Cream, anyone?,” which taught the girls about cryogenics. Each girl got to make her own ice cream out of liquid nitrogen.
Matilda Musial, a freshman at East Aurora High School, said, “My favorite was the ice cream. It was a really good hands-on experience.”
Another favorite was the “Go Figure” workshop. It taught girls the best way to solve problems and puzzles.
Irene Handy, a seventh-grader at East Aurora Middle School and a second-year Tech Savvy attendee, said, “I liked ‘Go Figure’ because you get to do puzzles with your friends.”
Other workshops introduced the girls to different types of engineering. Chemical engineering, robotics, meteorology and biomedical engineering were a few of the 20 different workshops.
Elizabeth Kaforey, a freshman at Orchard Park High School, likes science, but said, “I want to be an accountant.”
When asked to compare this year to last year she said, “I did it last year and I had just as much fun this year as I did last year. I will definitely come back next year for the SAT preps.”
Girls in grades 10 through 12 had the opportunity to prepare for the SATs. They took practice tests and will get their results in a few weeks. They also attended workshops that help prepare them for college.
This year, Tech Savvy celebrated its national launch. It is expanding to 10 new locations. Conferences will be held in Mississippi, Connecticut, Houston, Chicago, Indianapolis and five other undetermined locations.
For more information, visit www.aauw-nys.org/buffalo/techsavvy.htm.
Kayla Reumann is a freshman at Holland High School.