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South Coast Girls Encouraged to Pursue Careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math

Hundreds of girls from Ventura County schools are being encouraged to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math, known as STEM. It’s part of a nationwide push to get girls excited about these industries. 

“Girls STEM Day” was held at Pacifica High School in Oxnard, where these young women got a chance to explore the fields of engineering with some help from female engineers.

Joyceann Sim, a mechanical engineer at the U.S. Navy’s Naval Sea Systems Command based in Port Hueneme, shows about a dozen middle school and ninth grade girls how to launch miniature missiles into the air, so that they land on specific targets.

“It’s to promote to girls and kind of show them what engineers do,” she said.

Sim, who grew up in Oxnard and graduated from Pacifica High School, said she’s happy to return to her alma mater to teach these students a lesson in aerodynamics.

“How missiles and rockets and overall just anything aerodynamic moves in the air, different adjustments you can make to steer how your rockets or missiles go rather than just blindly throwing them in the air,” she said.

The girls use tape to build their one-foot-long missiles made out of paper and plastic. They place their handmade creations onto one end of a PCB pipe. An empty soda bottle is on the other end.

They stomp on that bottle.

The pressure propels their missile into the air, and they aim for circles outlined in chalk on the ground.

“It was really cool to building something and see how far it would go. And to see if it would land on the target,” said 14-year-old Sereia Apodaca, a ninth grader at Port Hueneme High School.

She said this workshop further cements her dream of becoming an engineer.

“I like to create things and I like to see what something can become. Some small parts can create something even bigger which can lead to something marvelous.” she said.

Apodaca is one of nearly 300 girls from Oxnard Union High School District schools -- and middle schools that feed into the district -- who are spending their Saturday going to STEM workshops led by more than 20 female engineers.

Sarah Rice, an engineering duty officer at the U.S. Navy’s Naval Surface Warfare Center in Port Hueneme, said it’s rewarding to mentor girls.

“I think it’s absolutely important that we reach out to girls and women and say ‘We need you in the engineering field. Your voice is important. And you can do this,’” she said.

The goal is to encourage girls to pursue engineering and other STEM-related careers that are often dominated by men.

Mary Anne Rooney with the Ventura County Civic Alliance, who helped organize the event, says it’s important to have a STEM Day only for girls.

“Girls behave differently when they are in groups of boys. So, this provided them with an opportunity to really just let their hair down and follow their passion,” she said.

While the girls are busy designing, building and problem-solving, their parents are at a workshop to learn how to encourage their daughters to pursue higher education in the STEM pipeline and how to afford college through financial aid.

Yvette Romero is a single mom attending the parent workshop and whose daughter is participating in the STEM Day program.

“I feel ready, like ready to help her be ready,” she said.

These girls – like 13-year-old Jamie Lozano, an eighth grader at Juan Soria School -- say they now feel encouraged to delve into the areas of science, technology, engineering and math.

“It showed me there’s a lot more women that are into these careers. So, I can also be one of those women to pursue the same career.”