Oct 03, 2017

Mobile STEM lab brings future in focus for girls

Three Girl Scouts using virtual reality equipment

A bright future in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) is closer than ever for girls in central Pennsylvania, thanks to a new mobile stem lab from the Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania (GSHPA).

The mobile lab teaches girls about STEM through hands-on experiments focused on robotics and programming, mechanical engineering, environmental science and even virtual reality. Outfitted with laptop computers, mobile hotspot technology and 3D printers, its cool factor is getting girls excited about STEM right in their own neighborhoods.

The van, made possible by a grant from PPL Corporation and funding from PPL Electric Utilities, made its official debut at the GSHPA’s inaugural STEM Expo on May 20, 2017, in Hershey, Pa. In its first two months on the road, the van rolled up to more than 20 locations reaching more than 500 girls. The van enables GSHPA to bring vital STEM programming to girls all over their 30-county service territory covering diverse neighborhoods from inner cities to rural locations.

“Having the ability to offer STEM programming locally has had a huge impact,” said Ellen Kyzer, MPA, chief executive officer of Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania and a former Girl Scout. “We’re bringing technology that girls have not had access to before. The exposure allows them to see the future and see how successful they can be in a STEM field.”

The goal is to encourage girls to pursue careers in STEM fields, where they will likely earn a higher income and use their expertise, courage, confidence and character to make the world a better place.

“The mobile STEM van is a wonderful, creative effort to reach and encourage girls who may become tomorrow’s doctors, engineers or researchers,” said Lissette Santana, senior manager-Corporate Relations for PPL. “We are glad to support this effort, which will reach and strengthen communities throughout PPL’s Pennsylvania service area.”

The mobile van will support the GSHPA’s Girls Go STEM program, a three-year initiative created to address gender equality in STEM fields. In the first year of Girls Go STEM, the organization plans to reach over 3,000 girls in central and northeastern Pennsylvania through events, educational sessions and troop activities to introduce and spark their interest in STEM field careers.

On the national level, Girl Scouts of the USA – which reaches 2.4 million girls ages 5 through 17 – is uniquely positioned to encourage STEM programs and address gender equity in science, math and technical fields. Girl Scouts of the USA and its councils across the country have embarked on an advocacy initiative to raise awareness about girls’ participation in STEM with public officials and community leaders at the local, state, and federal levels.