The recent Tennessee Girls in STEM math and science conference at MTSU has become a next-generation tradition for at least one Midstate family — all because a loving grandmother knows the value of education.
MTSU alumna LaShanda Moore of Antioch, Tennessee, saw her daughter, Heaven Moore, attend the Expanding Your Horizons in Math and Science conference in 2014.
Eight years later, Moore’s granddaughters Kamareya and Tae’Yannah Moore participated along with nearly 170 other girls during the 26th annual event, now known as the Tennessee Girls in STEM Conference, on Saturday, Sept. 24.
Science, technology, engineering and math remain at the forefront of the event, where middle school and high school girls gain hands-on knowledge and advice from experts sharing information so they can consider careers in these fields.
“I’m really interested in education,” said LaShanda Moore, who graduated from MTSU as a nontraditional student in 2014, majoring in criminal justice and minoring in mental health service after dropping out of college earlier.
Heaven Moore earned her bachelor’s degree. LaShanda Moore’s other children are furthering their education, and “GG,” as she is called, said she wants her nine grandchildren to do their best so they can attend college, too.
When Tennessee Girls in STEM Director Judith Iriarte-Gross learned Heaven Moore attended in 2014 and LaShanda Moore had registered her granddaughters for the conference, she asked if they would be group leaders. Both accepted.
LaShanda Moore worked with the “Physics Phun” group. Heaven Moore was part of the School of Concrete and Construction Management activity, and she enjoyed it so much, she’s considering pursuing a degree in the program.
“It was awesome,” LaShanda Moore said of the conference. “I learned a lot, and my granddaughters couldn’t stop talking about it. … I’m going to find as many people as I can to come next year.”
Hands-on STEM activities spark excitement
MTSU Science Building classrooms and staging areas and the McWherter Learning Resources Center and other campus venues were full of energy and excitement Sept. 24.
The girls built marble roller coasters, learned about “triggernometry” from Tennessee Bureau of Investigation firearms specialists Jasmine Johnson and Savannah Houk, explored “Physics Phun” with assistant professor Hanna Terletska and her physics students, and discovered small animal veterinary nutrition with Kevin Ragland of the Tennessee STEM Education Center and moon buggies from College of Basic and Applied Sciences associate dean and engineering professor Saeed Foroudastan, just to name a few.
The girls heard from MTSU faculty, students and alumni mentors along with others in private industry, who showed them engineering strategies to make concrete coasters, how to drop eggs without breaking them and more during their six hours on the college campus.
Girls came from Hendersonville, Nashville, Mt. Juliet, Smyrna, Murfreesboro and other Tennessee communities. Central Magnet and Discovery Schools in Murfreesboro, Rutland Elementary in Mt. Juliet and Thurman Francis Arts Academy in Smyrna were among the schools represented.
Hearing from experts
Guest speaker Dr. Barbara Turnage, the interim dean for the College of Behavioral and Health Sciences, gave an inspiring talk and fielded audience questions.
The high school girls heard from an outstanding panel from a variety of fields, featuring nurses Dara Dixon and Devin Martin of Vanderbilt Medical Center, nurse Amy Butler from Rocky Fork Elementary/Rutherford County Schools and Minden Bullock from Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, who discussed nurse management.
Dixon, who has volunteered for 19 years, Butler and Bullock are MTSU alumni. Alumna Freneka Minter, the spring featured speaker, moderated the panel. She has volunteered at the event for 26 years.
Iriarte-Gross, a chemistry professor at MTSU, launched the math- and science-focused conference for girls in 1996. As in previous years, many students, faculty, staff, alumni and corporate partners volunteered to assist with this year’s event.
Support and sponsorship came from Schneider Electric, Nissan, Texas Instruments, InfoWorks, MTSU’s College of Basic and Applied Sciences and University College, Newell Brands and the Nashville local section of the American Chemical Society.
— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)