Bright, animated and full of energy and determination, Chloe Johnstone epitomized many of the girls and young women attending the 25th Tennessee Girls in STEM Conference at MTSU.
“We made it. It worked,” Johnstone, 10, of Hendersonville, Tennessee, squealed with delight as her marble made it down the roller-coaster foam track, through a loop and into the plastic cup. Nearby, volunteer workshop leader Melissa Marr, who works for primary sponsor Nissan and is an MTSU alumna with bachelor’s and master’s degrees, replied, “That’s awesome.”
Tennessee Girls in STEM, or TGIS, helps girls and young women investigate science and mathematics careers, hear from women already in those fields, participate in workshops and learn about other girls interested in science, technology, engineering and math
About 175 girls and 50 volunteers attended the conference Saturday, April 9, with most events in the MTSU Science Building. The fall 2021 conference was postponed because of pandemic concerns.
“Even though I learned this in fourth grade, I learned more about teamwork, how to listen to each other more and learned more about potential kinetic energy,” said Johnstone, a fifth grader at Lakeside Park Elementary, who earned a prize from Marr for her kinetic energy knowledge.
“I love building things, engineering, science, mixing chemicals together and also like math,” Johnstone added.
For Victoria Welch, 15, a Stewarts Creek High School freshman and robotics team member, it marked her third TGIS event that formerly was called EYH or Expanding Your Horizons in Math and Science.
“Today’s been really enlightening,” said Welch, who indicated a career interest in becoming a sales engineer or biomedical engineer with prosthetics. “There’s many amazing speakers that have helped the process through college and after college that have opened up my mind to possibilities that I could pursue in the future — many career ideas and pathways.”
Featured speaker Freneka Minter, an alumna who’s a staff scientist with the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance, told participants she “was there to plant a seed so you can grow. Find a mentor who will not only mentor you, but inspire you, will teach you new things, nurture you, encourage you and will reach out to you when there are opportunities they come across and expose you to those opportunities.”
Minter’s career has included working with the Tennessee Department of Health, Oak Ridge Associated Universities, the FBI and more.
Judith Iriarte-Gross, event director, chemistry professor and MTSU Women in STEM director, said the STEM conference was “super successful. We had girls getting excited about bottle rockets, about learning how to be a veterinarian and so many challenging, hands-on workshops.”
Iriarte-Gross thanked the committee and faculty, students and others who were either workshop leaders and assistants.
The conference is sponsored by the MTSU College of Basic and Applied Sciences, InfoWorks, Schneider Electric, Texas Instruments and the Nashville local section of the American Chemical Society.
The 26th annual conference will be held Saturday, Sept. 24, with additional details forthcoming. For more information, visit https://mtsu.edu/TGIS/, email Judith.Iriarte-Gross@mtsu.edu or call 615-904-8253.
— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)