Scott Weiler has been teaching for nearly 11 years. He’s currently teaching engineering at Amphi Middle School in Tucson, Ariz. – a city that he says is one of the poorest in the country. He sees a natural determination in his students, something seen in innovators, but they’re not sure what to do with it. He wanted to change that, and that’s how Girl Power in Science and Engineering was born.
It started in 2012, with the goal to connect young girls at Amphi with female mentors in STEAM – science, technology, engineering, arts and math. The program began with 45 girls and 15 mentors, encouraging conversation, taking field trips and educating them on what STEAM is in a positive way.
The mentors Weiler brings into the program give the girls a real-life example of women who have worked hard to pursue a career in STEAM, and what it took to get them where they are. Oftentimes, the details are what’s lacking – the girls haven’t always encountered role models from STEAM fields in their personal lives.
“They meet these women in STEAM that I bring in, and they can see that they aren’t much different from their mother, their aunt, and so on,” Weiler said. “There are women that came from poverty, were immigrants, any of those things, it doesn’t matter.”
One key piece of the Girl Power program is making sure the participants get a well-rounded view of what’s involved in the STEAM fields – something that Weiler feels is often lacking in STEAM education.
“They can problem solve and go through a design process, build something, and that’s all great, but that doesn’t exactly tell them what it’s going to take to get there, what the outcome is going to be, and that there’s going to be obstacles,” he said.
Amphi Middle School is located just a few miles from the University of Arizona, a great science and engineering school, so Weiler takes the girls there to show them everything from the dorms to the classrooms. “We want them to understand that it’s not going to be for everybody, we’re not trying to tell them there’s only one path,” said Weiler. “We’re trying to say here’s one more path you may not have known about and you might like this a lot.”
The program has since grown to 60 girls and 25 mentors – which is the most they can take right now. “We can max out at 60 girls because that’s the maximum we can fit on a bus with two adults,” said Weiler. “If we could afford the extra bus then we would bump it up to 120, easily.”