Department of Energy Hosts Mentoring Cafes in STEM Career Initiative

This article is cross-posted on the Department of Energy’s website.

What career are you thinking about that you might’ve not thought about before?

“Science engineering”

What did you learn today?

“To never give up because nothing is impossible, so put your skills to the test.”

Based on your visit today, has your interest in science, technology, engineering or mathematics increased?

“Yes,” from over 30 participants.

These were just some of the responses of 40 middle school girls from Tampa Public Housing Authority who got a glimpse of what it’s like to work in science, technology, engineering and mathematics — or STEM — at the Museum of Science and Industry on Saturday, June 13.

As part of the Department of Energy’s STEM Mentoring Café program, these middle schoolers spent the day touring the museum, engaging in hands-on activities, and meeting real scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians. The theme of the day was STEM Careers and Connections to Climate Change, empowering girls to get sparked by STEM, stick with it, and set their minds to their future.

To help inspire and motivate these girls, STEM professionals from NASA Kennedy Space Center, the Lowry Park Zoo, Verizon, and Tampa Electric Company volunteered their time to explore STEM with them. These mentors helped to bring to life the impact that STEM research has on everyday life and could have on these students’ futures. Annie Caraccio, a chemical engineer at NASA, spent her time providing examples of how the work of engineers at NASA has led to several inventions — including the microwave. Other mentors encouraged the girls to continue their education and seek out opportunities.

The Museum of Science and Industry also captivated the girls’ attention and sparked their curiosity. “I wish I could come back every day!” one wrote. “The museum is a place where you can find out what you want to do when you grow up,” said another.

STEM Mentoring Cafes are being launched around the country, and programs like this one can be the inspiration girls need to pursue STEM more seriously, such as through enrolling in a Career and Technical Education (CTE) program in high school or pursuing a degree in a STEM field in college.

Click on these links to read more about the Mentoring Cafes and to visit the Department of Energy’s original post.

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Olivia Wood is a summer intern for the College and Career Transitions branch of the Division of Academic and Technical Education in the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education.