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Young Women’s Symposium



April 22, 2015- 100 female students at TAF Academy attended the annual Young Women’s Symposium yesterday at TAF Headquarters. The five hour event featured a variety of current professionals in the STEM workforce. Presenters from multiple companies such as Google, Amazon, and Expedia as well as current graduate students from the University of Washington led multiple panels on life as a STEM professional and workshops on their related field.

This year’s symposium, sponsored by Comcast, was hosted and organized by Larissa Ho, TAF Academy senior. Students from 6th-12th grade engaged with STEM professionals to make things and/or act out real challenges and scenarios within their workshops.

We use STEM in a different way at TAF Academy.

We use it to solve problems, create things, and fit STEM into our interests.”

-Trish Dziko (TAF Founder and Executive Director)


In Playworks Studio’s workshop, different student groups were tasked with using puzzle pieces to program robots via Bluetooth. Each group was given a binder with different puzzle formulas to choose from that communicated to the robot what it needed to do. “We wanted kids 6-10 to be able to understand spatial reasoning and procedural thinking” Jake (Playworks) responded when asked about the game. “We found that as young as 2nd grade, girls lose interest in STEM. We wanted to have a product that interested all children.” 

Google‘s computer science workshop allowed students to understand computer language and mechanics.  “What we’re doing is acting out the inside of the computer” Becky (Google) says as she hands the students numbers to hold. “Pretend you’re a computer; depending on the direction you read these numbers, you get different messages.”  After the demonstration, students were able to learn about development in Google Chrome and practice programming on personal laptops.  “Whatever problems there are in the world, science is the best chance we have at solving them. That’s why I love engineering.”
Girls SymposiumUniversity of Washington‘s (UW) “Physical Oceanography” workshop gave students an overview of oceanography and a little reality when it comes to STEM professionals. “We think of STEM as using a computer or programming but most times, I get to play outside” Sarah (UW Oceanographer) says.

Expedia led a workshop on product development and project management. Students learned about Expedia employees’ process when working with clients. Each student group received a “client” and had the opportunity to solve a scenario and manage the project given to them. One of the clients was a stylist who wanted help around customer reviews and search engine optimization. “In STEM professions your client could be anyone, not just scientists or STEM professionals.”




The day ended with afternoon panels, giving students space to ask questions about the reality of women in STEM. When asked the question “Have you experienced gender inequality (at work)” every panelist replied “Yes.” in unison. “My coworkers would talk down to me, my boss wouldn’t let me complete projects and I was miserable.” One panelist continues to talk about her experience at a previous job.  “I get called confrontational, abrasive, too tough- if I were a man, I’d be determined.” another panelist replies.  So what advice can we give girls and women entering STEM? The panels had a few ideas including finding your network of safe spaces and people, working hard through hard problems and owning your intelligence.The one piece of advice that every professional had?

“Don’t give up.”

Scientific thinking requires that you accept that you fail…try again and again

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