BASF encourages high school girls to pursue STEM careers

BASF encouraging girls in Ascension Parish to pursue STEM careers

GONZALES, La. (WAFB) - In the world of engineering, men dominate the field, but a large group of young folks in Ascension Parish say enough is enough. They’re thinking it’s time girls switched up the conversation.

Young ladies at East Ascension High School in Ascension Parish are working to pave a way for themselves in the engineering field. On Wednesday, Nov. 20, BASF helped students build robots and code them.

Sarah Haneline, workforce development manager with BASF, says they want more young ladies to take interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

Haneline says women in the field want to show young people where STEM can take them. The career opportunities are boundless, and can include being a chemist, welder, or engineer, Haneline says.

However, dozens of girls at the high school don’t need much convincing. Building robots is just another hobby for them. In the end, these girls hope to add programming to their list of skills.

Emma Baumann is a 9th grader at Dutchtown High School. She says she has been experimenting with building robots for years, but not on this scale, and definitely not surrounded by girls with the same goal.

Every nail covered in glitter that screws in a nut or bolt is connected to a girl with a special interest in STEM.

“I think building a robot is really cool and that’s cool if you did it on your own, but doing it with people you know and seeing everyone else build it, that’s what makes it so cool,” Baumann said.

Ava Surla is also in the 9th grade at Dutchtown. She likes working with her hands. Surla says her uncle is an engineer and can solve just about any problem.

“He can just fix it all the time. I like to be able to fix things and have always been interested in Legos, building stuff, and fixing things," she said.

Surla was on the robotics team for two years in junior high, but she lost interest. However, that didn’t stop her from participating Wednesday. That’s because a career in engineering is in her future.

The most impressive part is the girls are building the robot without instructions. The students can only use pictures for reference, but when you hit a crossroads at step 43, you look for a little more direction.

The girls think that’s because the adults in the room want them to problem solve their way through the build, much like a girl in the engineering field taking a seat at the table.

“Just to see girls doing the same thing that guys are doing. It’s more girl power,” Surla said.

This was the first multi-school, girl-powered event hosted by BASF.

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