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Sandy Journal

SheTech offers platform to encourage female students to enter STEM careers

Jun 13, 2019 03:48PM ● By Julie Slama

About 2,500 female high school students came together with 150 tech companies at SheTech to learn more about technology careers. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Gov. Gary Herbert recently addressed a ballroom full of teenage girls and wanted to make sure one thing was clear: their future is bright with STEM careers.

At the SheTech conference, more than 150 science, technology, engineering and mathematics companies and colleges shared hands-on activities from robotics to auto tech to 3D gaming to technology entrepreneurship opportunities with female high school students from every county in the state. 

Herbert gave the keynote address.

“We are in the middle of a technology explosion in the state,” he said. “Utah is recognized as the most technologically advanced state in America today. Women in technology is the next explosion, which you’re a part of.”

Herbert shared with SheTech participants that women in technological roles are on the rise.

“We are moving in the right direction. There are no limits, no ceiling; nothing but opportunities,” he said. 

Spearheaded by Angela Trego with the support of Women Tech Council and Utah Valley University, SheTech is a chance for women to learn about opportunities in the field.

“Technology is driving Utah’s economy,” she said. “We can’t get enough people in Utah to fill Utah jobs. We need to get girls in the field to fill jobs. Women working in teams in the workforce in the field improves diversity, allows projects to be looked at in different ways, and bottom line, brings success. Gov. Herbert understands the issue and is being a leader in making a change in placing more women in these positions.”

When Trego was a student, she was the only female PhD candidate in the mechanical engineering field and lacked a female mentor.

“I realized what could help is to have opportunities where girls can be inspired and understood by women role models in the field to show them, they aren’t the only ones. These women can have mentors and engage these students, showing them how they can be successful in their careers,” said Trego, who is president of Trego Engineering as well as vice president of Women Tech Council.

When SheTech began five years ago, Trego said she was “laughed at and told no girls would come.” That first year, 2014, 250 teens attended.

This year, 2,500 female high school students took part in Utah and SheTech conferences have sprung up in neighboring states of Idaho and Colorado. It also helped inspire STEMFest for elementary and junior high students.

Copper Hills physics teacher Marissa Beck knew about SheTech, but she wasn’t able to attend until this year.

“I’ve always wanted to know what it is all about and thought it was really important to know and talk to professionals in the fields,” she said. “There aren’t many women in the physical science field. This inspires students to realize they are smart enough to enter into a STEM career and shows them women are already successful in the science fields.”

Hillcrest High took a busload of 33 students, Work-Based Learning Facilitator Cher Burbank said.

“This is a good opportunity for them to be inspired about what they want to do, check it out and talk to other women in the field,” she said.

Hillcrest High senior Lillian Rose said she learned what was happening in the tech industry from robotics to medical education.

“It’s really cool to see what is happening right here in Utah,” she said.

Her classmate Julie Ashby learned how to build websites, which she said would be helpful for her future as she enters a field possibly in business and marketing.

Three home school teenagers, Makenna Eagle, Grace Parish and Elizabeth Oldham, were eager to explore SheTech.

“I love math and doing mental math games,” Parish said. “It’s a cool experience to learn in other STEM fields, like coding, which I haven’t done before.”

Eagle attended last year and discovered a passion in radiology.

“I learned how X-rays work and found it really interesting,” she said. “It’s a good way to learn about jobs I may like in the future.”

Oldham, however, admits she isn’t big into science.

“It’s hard to understand technology and how it all works, but I know it’s all going to be impactful in my future, so it’s a good introduction to what all is out there,” she said.

However, some exhibits introduced fun ways to learn about science. For example, West Hills ninth-graders Alisa Hernandez and Brayden Walter learned about the equations of equilibrium through stacking Pringle potato chips in a circular pattern.

Murray High sophomore Natalie Pehrson, who may explore an engineering degree, took workshops in 3D graffiti and virtual reality, but also learned about air cannons and logic puzzles.

Taylorsville senior Jasmin Romero learned about virtual reality and medical equipment, and was excited to see a Tesla. She also wanted to investigate environmental science. Classmate Angeline Tuyisabe already had settled into learning about engineering.

Alta High freshman Katelynn Christian learned how to program Spheros.

“I’ve always been interested in programming, so I’m looking into social engineering. I also want to learn more about cybersecurity and game engineering,” she said.

Herriman High junior Sage Jensen took a class about web development and designing apps.

“The tech classes are my favorite part of every day at school,” she said. “I want a career in tech, and I’m learning about my future right here.”