Texas A&M’s chapter of Expanding Your Horizons hosted its annual conference on Saturday, Dec. 4 to inspire sixth-grade girls pursuing math and science-related fields.

Expanding Your Horizons, or EYH, is a nationally-recognized event presented by A&M’s  Women in Science and Engineering that aims to help sixth grade girls continue their interest in math and science outside the classroom by bringing awareness to career opportunities and offering A&M students the chance to serve as women-in-STEM role models. 

Women in Science and Engineering outreach chair and engineering education Ph.D. student Rachelle Pedersen has served in her position for two years and said EYH has been a great opportunity to motivate and excite young girls for STEM-related career fields.

 “The whole point of [the conference] is to get them interested [and] excited about science and engineering, not only as a career path, but to be more confident and enthusiastic about their abilities,” Pederson said.

Kinesiology junior Callie Wynn said there are many activities that take place during the conference, including different STEM-related workshops in which the girls can participate.

“Each organization who's asked to be a part of Expanding Your Horizons typically does their own workshop or demo that they create. This year I was a part of the Aggie Astronaut Corps, and we did a demo on how meteorites affect the lunar surface,” Wynn said. “Some of the other demos [include] one all about the brain [and] one that was about air pollution and how air quality affects us in our bodies. They basically just have tons of different things in all areas of STEM.”

Pederson said she enjoys witnessing the light-bulb moment in the young girls, which she saw during her time as a volunteer and workshop leader in past years. 

“When the girls are doing something that is challenging and get a little frustrated, but then when they figure it [out], it's like their whole face changes,” Pederson said. “That's what sticks with them. We could [not] care less about them understanding the content completely. The thing that's exciting … is [when] they walked out want[ing] to go learn more.”

EYH asks A&M students who participated in the program themselves as sixth-graders to volunteer in order to highlight the impact of the event, such as math Ph.D. student Andrea Barton. Her time in EYH positively influenced her college choices, Barton said. 

“When I was young, it helped me realize that this was something I could do. It helped me realize that math is something I like and that it's cool to like math,” Barton said. “I don't know if I would have actually studied math [without EYH]. I might have gone for a different career, but because of that, at an early age, I realiz[ed] this was an option for me. That's why I'm here [today].”

Wynn was also a former EYH participant as a young girl and said the conference positively impacted her career field choice.

“When I was a kid, there wasn't really anything that I was a part of, and women in STEM fields especially were not as visible or encouraged,” Wynn said. “I just love that there was this moment where I could go and feel special and learn about things. It was just incredible.”

For those interested in getting involved with EYH, Pederson said she encourages individuals to reach out to a workshop leader or visit the College of Science Outreach and the Women in Science websites. Pederson also said she urges individuals to reach out to people who may know of sixth-grade girls who may be interested. 

“We need to get our registration numbers up, so if anybody knows of a sixth-grade girl that might be interested in participating or knows teachers who could bring their students along, that would be something that we would love," Pederson said. 

Wynn said she thanks the coordinators for their hard work and for keeping up with the event, and she wishes the organization’s legacy to continue.

“The people who organize it are amazing individuals, and they're working very hard each year to keep EYH up and running. I really love that they do this each year for the students just to make them feel special [and] included in something,” Wynn said. “[It’s] nice to see them have something they're looking forward to that's related to their interests. I hope it's something that can continue to be done for years in the future.”

 

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