BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Girls gathered around the Water Campus to learn about projects protecting Louisiana’s coastlines, and how they could one day save these shorelines themselves.
Students from across the parish lined the edge of a gated balcony that overlooked a massive sheet of concrete. The room looked as if it could host indoor sports game, but what lay below the row of tennis shoes and ballet flats was a model of the mighty Mississippi River, which was unveiled at the LSU Center for River Studies last January.
The model is a tool to help save the state’s dwindling coastlines, and was a featured piece for the students attending the “Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day” event. The day, officially celebrated on February 21st, aims to motivate young women and girls to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM.
During the model presentation, a representative with the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority said the organization will be in need of engineers to lead coastal-saving projects that range from ridge restoration to shoreline protection.
In a typically male-dominated field, engineering is more than just tinkering, but also requires creativity. The students spoke with female engineers steering their fields of water and coastal research. Kodi Guillory, a project engineer at the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, spoke to girls about coastal engineering and local coastal projects.
The event also included a tour of the Estuary at The Water Campus, and hands-on, water-themed activities alongside ExxonMobil engineers.
Women still remain underrepresented in the science and engineering workforce, with the greatest disparities in engineering and computer sciences fields, according to a March 2018 graphic from the National Girls Collaborative Project.
Louisiana will soon see a boom in jobs in the STEM-related careers, and ACT’s Louisiana State of STEM report says 51 percent of students showed interest in STEM majors and careers. However, ten percent of them met the STEM benchmark that shows their readiness for math and science courses in college, according to statistics from the Louisiana STEM Initiative.
Local organizations and initiatives, such as STEMUp Baton Rouge, have launched programs to provide resources for students through STEM-focused mentorship and summer camps.