'Engaged in problem solving:' Girls explore new possibilities at GEMS Conference

KENOSHA -- To help young women foster success, the University of Wisconsin-Parkside is steering them toward STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).

In a UW-Parkside classroom on Thursday, Jan. 17, a group of middle school girls explored new possibilities -- not only for the task at hand, but also for their futures.

"We know that the jobs of tomorrow and the jobs that the students of today will have, particularly these middle school girls, do not exist today," said Debbie Ford, chancellor of UW-Parkside.

Debbie Ford, Chancellor of UW-Parkside

GEMS Conference at UW-Parkside

Now in its sixth year, nearly 300 Racine Unified School District students attended the GEMS Conference (Girls Empowered by Math and Science).

"I think it's fun because you can hear other people's ideas," said Lauren Meshenky, a seventh-grader from Gifford School in Racine.

Using uncooked spaghetti and marshmallows, the girls collaborated to get the job done. Chancellor Ford said workshops like this translate into key life skills.

"We need to prepare them to be adaptable, to be curious and to dive in and to continue learning," Ford said.

Lauren Meshenky

With only 25 minutes on the clock, some towers soared -- while others flopped.

"I didn't think of the problems it would have had, and how the noodles can't hold the weight without turning," Meshenky said.

Still, it's the values of STEM that will stick.

"These girls engaged in problem solving," Ford said. "Just think. In a few years, these girls are going to be UW-Parkside students and that's what I look forward to."

Chancellor Ford said she hopes to expand the GEMS Conference in the coming years.