Foothill High School junior Nanika Cross had always thought science careers were boring. No different than chemistry class, where the subject matter dealt with covalent bonds and the periodic table of the elements.
Then she attended DeVry University's HerWorld event Thursday at the Henderson Convention Center.
The event -- specifically for high school girls -- introduced Cross to the multitude of careers and possibilities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). She learned about the work being done at Google, about scientists developing glasses that can play video, and health experts devising new devices to make drinking water more accessible.
By the end, she realized there was a whole world of careers in STEM she didn't know about previously.
"I thought it was all chemistry-type jobs, and I'm not good at science; I'm good at math," Cross, 16, said. "I realized that there are other areas.
"As women, we can be part of the advancement in technology 30 years from now."
Cross was one of more than 230 juniors and seniors from Legacy, Foothill, Western and El Dorado high schools who participated in HerWorld. The event, which also is held in cities across the country, is designed to introduce high school girls to the rapidly growing careers available in those fields.
"From what the government is saying, there is a huge gap from STEM careers available and graduates in these programs," said Micah Stone, HerWorld project manager. "We want to get these students and introduce them early to STEM careers so they think about it in college."
HerWorld was open to all Clark County School District high schools, but only the four schools chose to participate. Some students, such as El Dorado senior Shyanne Dase, signed up out of an interest in STEM careers; others came as part of a class.
El Dorado English teacher Samantha Louise Sabo chaperoned more than 40 students to the event. She said it was a great opportunity to introduce students who might not imagine a career beyond minimum-wage jobs to the world of possibilities available to them.
"They're not exposed to enough outside their neighborhood," Sabo said. "This is the perfect opportunity for them to see they have choices and the talent to do different things."
From 9 a.m. until noon, students were allowed to miss class to participate in workshops and watch presentations focused on STEM careers.
They listened to a lecture from Laura Fucci, the city of Henderson's chief information technology officer, and watched a video about the people behind developing the technology of the future. They also formed teams to participate in activities such as brainstorming the world's biggest needs.
Dase said she signed up for the event because she wanted to be a chemistry teacher, but now, she realized there were a variety of careers she could explore. Meanwhile, Western junior Paea Savou said she was clueless about STEM careers before attending the event.
"I knew (those careers) were out there, but I didn't know what they did," Savou said. "Now I'm going to look into it and go from there."
The real fun came at the end, when students were tasked with building a battery-powered cardboard robot to enter a raffle for an iPod Nano. Students were given a set of instructions, pieces of cutout cardboard, tape, a rubber band and a battery to make a tiny walking robot.
The activity consumed so much of their focus, they didn't even care about the pizza available for lunch.
"It has been fun," Dase said. "For my first time going, I'm having a blast."
By the end, the task had students giggling, all while subtly introducing them to a new world of possibilities.
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