GEMS - Girls Excelling in Mathematics with Success
About 130 seventh grade girls were surprised to learn that only 24 percent of women currently work in STEM related fields. United Way of the Inland Valleys (UWIV) and Abbott Vascular are out to change that.
UWIV recently hosted a STEMfest at Abbott Vascular in Temecula for GEMS - Girls Excelling in Mathematics with Success. "The goal of GEMS is to inspire a love for mathematics and science in seventh grade girls and encourage them to choose STEM-related careers," said Jennifer Thornton, Program Manager of UWIV. Thorton worked with Abbott Vascular Microbiologist Zenabu Bawa-Mamudu to coordinate the GEMS event. GEMS was created by Dr. Pam Clute, a passionate UCR math teacher and pioneer of STEM education who promoted STEM learning in K-12 schools and colleges in Southern California up to the time of her death in 2016.
As the girls arrived at Abbott, they where given t-shirts and swag bags. Next they visited exhibitions where they poked at sheep hearts provided by the University of California, Riverside, College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences. They also met NAO, a humanoid robot that speaks and responds to images and verbal commands. Next they checked out the robots created by the Nighthawks and RAMS Robotics Clubs and watched Cal Baptist University student Marley Sines use a 3-D printer to make parts. Since girls like to have fun, they also posed for pictures and snapped selfies.
In addition to a hearing from several accomplished women who are directors at Abbot, they heard from keynote speaker Lauren Valdez. Valdez is a high school math teacher at Hemet High School and she has taught the summer GEMS academy for five years. Explaining that she loves math, Valdez said, "Numbers are a beautiful thing, they make up the patterns in life." Valdez said ten of the fastest growing professions are in STEM fields and she asked students, "How will women's needs be met if we are not equally represented in those jobs?" Valdez shared another surprising statistic. In 1963, people from foreign countries held 18 percent of U.S. patents and in 2014, people from foreign countries held 51 percent of U.S. patents.
Valdez said her interest in STEM fields became personal for her after she watched her grandmother struggle with atrial fibrillation. After she received a pacemaker, Valdez said, "I saw her thrive and that was enough to convince me of the importance of STEM research and development."
Next the girls toured Abbott Vascular, a medical device company with 1,400 employees in their Temecula division. The company develops, manufactures and supplies equipment and solutions for the treatment of cardiac and vascular diseases to healthcare professionals worldwide.
Abbott's Divisional Vice President of Worldwide Manufacturing Operations, Michael Crowe, has seen a decline in the number of people with STEM skills and he said, "As a nation, we are losing our technical leadership and we want to bring that back."
Crowe explained why Abbott Vascular got involved in the STEMFest. "We need to keep a pipeline of smart STEM students coming to us. Over a third of our workforce here have technical backgrounds," said Crowe, adding, "we need people with those skills to continue the work we do. We also want to give back to the youth in our community and encourage and inspire them to someday come work for us."