Local News

STEAM program urges girls to compete, innovate

Posted November 2, 2017 7:18 p.m. EDT
Updated November 2, 2017 7:23 p.m. EDT

— For years, educators have talked about the importance of STEM education to prepare students for the working world.

But now, the acronym has shift to a STEAM — Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math, to encourage innovation and creative thinking.

A unique program is exposing 20 middle school girls from Wake County to the concept through hands-on learning to foster an appetite for competing in a technological world.

Red Hat, the Raleigh-based computer and software company, calls their mobile work station the "Co-Lab," a play on the word collaboration.

Avelyn Batts is in the 7th grade, yet she is laying the foundation for the challenges beyond school.

"We need opportunities to show ourselves and prove that we're equal," she said. "It's useful for me to know how these technologies work because it's going to be around us in our everyday life."

Each student assembles a computer, a mouse, a keyboard, a mother-board, a camera, and they will learn to write the computer code which will make it all work.

"All girls want to have an equal right to code and to make it in the men's business," McDonald said, referring to the profession that has traditionally been for men.

Brelyn McDonald, 13, used the computer with built-in camera she is building here to collaborate with her classmates on a larger project.  She said the program is about  inclusion, no matter where you come from.

"Yes, I actually can, because we are all human, we can all do it," McDonald said. "I want to see more women, and women of color, going into the field. So we can have more follow through with them instead of just men."

"If a woman has a great idea, and she can't say anything because she's a woman, what's the point?" she said.​

Raleigh is the fourth and final stop for the project. The lab visited Boston, New York and Washington, D.C. earlier this year.  – move this up to where I asked about how the lab is available to kids.

"One of the things we aim to do with Co-Lab is to show all the great things women are doing in technology. They don't see what's possible, they don't see the 'like me,'" program manager Jamie Chappell said.

Photos taken by the students will be put together to illustrate a poem and illustrate the power of collaboration.