Girls’ STEM conference at MTSU brings hands-on lea...

Girls’ STEM conference at MTSU brings hands-on learning (+VIDEO)

Marketing manager Kate Colson showed her passion for technology. Oak Ridge National Laboratory researcher Kelly Perry showed a “sweet” side of science.

And following their keynote addresses to girls and young women attending the 17th annual Expanding Your Horizons in mathematics and science conference Sept. 21 at MTSU, the 268 attendees gained a new hands-on perspective of science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, careers.

Expanding Your Horizons, or EYH, is for middle and high school girls in grades five through 12. The conference informed participants about careers in math- and science-related fields.

You can watch a video from the event below.

In a “Barging Along” workshop led by Nissan-USA employees Lisa Smith, Patti MacQueen, Emmalynne Head and Tara Lesieur, middle school students Michelle Stone of Woodbury, Tenn., and Shianne Ashford of Liberty, Tenn., built a “barge” out of modeling clay. It held 95 small marbles before the weight eventually sank the vessel.

“I like getting to do projects,” said Stone, who is a seventh-grade student at East Side Elementary School in Cannon County.

“It was a good learning experience and I got to make friends here,” said Ashford, who is an eighth-grader at Short Mountain Elementary School.

Both Stone and Ashford were attending the conference for the first time.

Smith said she and her co-workers were bringing industrial mechanical engineering to the students in their workshop.

Kelly A. Perry

Siegel High School freshman Karmel Washington, another first-time EYH participant, said she’s “glad there’s people here to explain college options and career paths.” She added that she wants to be either an obstetrician or pediatrician after graduating from college and medical school.

Kera Pasquerilla, a Riverdale High School ninth-grader, attended for the second year in a row.

“I liked the speaker,” Pasquerilla said of Perry, who addressed the high school group.  “I liked how she was very successful at such a young age.”

Kate Colson

Perry used Tennessee-made products in her presentation and offered the sweets as rewards for participants answering questions. She is a research associate in the Microscopy Group in the Materials Science and Technology Division at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Colson, who spoke to the younger girls, said she chose “Be Curious and Live Beyond Your Wildest Dreams” as her topic “because I don’t feel I was curious enough when I was a kid. I’m one of three girls, and my mom always told my sisters and me that we ‘could be anything we wanted to be,’ and I didn’t really ask questions to know what she meant.”

The middle-school keynote speaker said she “accidentally fell into a career in technology and I love it. I want young women to embrace technology, ask questions and be purposeful in their career choices.

“I think curiosity is a very important trait that is typically encouraged in young boys, but not always in young women. I want to encourage young women to ask questions and dive deep into things that interest them.”

Colson is a marketing manager for Nashville-based HealthTech. She serves on various boards, including the MTSU WISTEM, or Women in STEM, Center.

The event provided 25 workshops for the middle school girls, including “CSI at MTSU,” “Navigate Your Future,” “Those Menacing Microbes” and “Nurses: The Backbone of Health Care.”

MTSU faculty and alumni and STEM-related industry representatives led the workshops.

For more information about EYH or the WISTEM Center, contact MTSU professor Judith Iriarte-Gross at 615-904-8253 or email

— Randy Weiler (

Ashley Meadows, right, adds marbles to the barge she and Angelica Frick built out of clay during the “Build a Barge” workshop at the Sept. 21 Expanding Your Horizons at MTSU. Meadows, who lives in Hillsboro, Tenn., is a sixth-grade student at Coffee County Middle School. Frick, who lives in Donelson, Tenn., is an eighth-grade student at John Early Museum Magnet Middle School. (MTSU photos by News and Media Relations)

Stewart’s Creek Middle School eighth-grader Jasmine Wood poses a question to keynote speaker Kate Colson of Nashville-based HealthTech.