Students created their own coins in the pewter mold making and casting class with Portland Community College.

Valley Catholic Middle School hosted its 3rd Annual Women in STEM Conference on Wednesday, March 20. Forty women from science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) professions, including seven VCS alums, visited the middle school to provide presentations and hands-on demonstrations – showcasing how the students’ STEM classes are applied to a wide-range of professional careers. 

The event continues to grow in popularity among both the students and the presenters. “It is encouraging to see how our students respond to this fun and interactive day,” said Melissa Iserson, STEM Department Chair. “We are also really excited about the growing interest from the professional women in the community who want to share their knowledge with our students.” 

This year’s event featured 72 engaging presentations ranging from coding to transportation, pewter casting to ocean sciences, and chemistry rainbows to entrepreneurship. Several local businesses and institutions participated, including Google, Intel, Tektronik, Portland Water Bureau and Portland Community College. 

Coding With Google
Caroline Gschwend helps walks students through coding activity.
Veterinary Science With Dr. Claire Lender 2
Dr. Claire Lender (’10) demonstrates sewing sutures as a Veterinarian.
Poppy Wills interviews Natalie DeSouza about her thoughts on the day.
“I really liked the peanut butter and jelly challenge with Google,” said Natalie DeSouza, VCMS 8th grader. “It is really cool to learn about these different career opportunities and about STEM in general.”

More than twice as many middle school boys intend to work in STEM-related fields compared to girls. While the VCMS Women in STEM is for all middle school students, it was created to help girls connect to women role models in their community who are actively involved in these important and lucrative careers. Currently, women make up only 28% of STEM careers, but those women earn approximately 28% more than women in other professions. 

“I love the diversity of speakers this event provides our students,” said Anna Harrison, STEM Teacher. “For example, it’s not just one area of engineering that students get to learn about, it’s all the different variations and applications of STEM that they can look forward to in their future.” 

Valley Catholic Middle School is the only STEM-certified school in Oregon and currently, one of the only three in the Western United States. The school provides many unique opportunities for its students – challenging them to be innovative, creative and systemic problem-solvers. Women in STEM provides students with opportunities to apply these skills through engaging activities and encourages them to dream big about the difference they can make in the world. 

Intel at Women in STEM
Carla Rodriguez helps VCMS student suit up with Intel.
Groundwater With Portland Water Bureau
Zarid Cancinos demonstrates groundwater flowing through aquifers.

Valley Catholic Middle School is actively working to inspire girls to find and pursue their STEM-related passions. Since 1901, only 24 out of 645 Nobel Prizes in physics, science, medicine and physiology have been awarded to women. However, the VCMS STEM curriculum and Women in STEM might just provide the inspiration for a current Valiant to dream big enough to add her name to that list. 

Check out the photos from this exciting day on our Flickr page.

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