More than 600 sixth grade girls from around the region spent the day at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise for hands on experiments and labs designed to encourage them to consider careers in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and health.

The third annual Girls’ Day in STEM featured dozens of labs, displays, and experiments created to show the youngsters that girls have what it takes to build strong careers in the STEM-H world. The girls were greeted at the David J. Prior Convocation Center by cheering UVA-Wise students, faculty and staff. Smiddy the Cavalier mascot also was on hand to welcome the girls to the College.

Chancellor Donna P. Henry welcomed the girls. The chancellor also thanked American Electric Power for sponsoring the event. Henry, a biologist, reminded the girls that STEM-H careers are open to them.

“You can do whatever it is you are interested in doing,” Henry said. “Reach high and dream big.”

Dr. Kelsey Ellis, assistant professor of geography at the University of Tennessee, was the keynote speaker for the event. Ellis, a storm chaser, who studies tropical cyclones, tornadoes, and other related matters, led the girls through an interactive storm-chasing scenario. The girls got to vote on which steps a storm chaser expert would take when tracking a possible tornado. The girls gasped when one choice stranded them in a flooding situation and prevented them from catching the tornado. However, a few computer clicks brought the girls back so they could decide to approach the storm from another direction. The girls successfully spotted the tornado and fulfilled their storm-chasing mission.

“We can be leaders,” Ellis told the girls. “We can be smart. We can be good decision makers. I want you to remember today that it’s really fun to learn about the world around you. “

Studying science lasts for a lifetime, she said, even if a person does not to into a STEM-H career. Studying STEM provides an opportunity to find meaning.

“It’s for everyone,” she said.

The girls ended the day by traveling to various sections of the Prior Center to learn about nursing, forensic science, virtual reality, computer coding, environmental science, and a variety of topics.

AEP sponsored Girls’ Day in STEM-H and nearly 100 student, faculty, staff, and community volunteers worked to make the event a success.

Photo by Earl Neikirk