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Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas inspires STEM careers

Written by Mindia Whittier

Interactive feature will help ensure women are part of the workforce pipeline.

Visitors to the Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas (GSNETX) STEM Center for Excellence can now learn more about the careers of American Association for the Advancement of Sciences IF/THEN® Ambassadors through a special installation.

Founded in 2019, IF/THEN® is an initiative of Lyda Hill Philanthropies that seeks to further advance women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) by empowering current innovators and inspiring the next generation of pioneers.

GSNETX serves girls and adult volunteers across 32 counties. To change the workforce pipeline in STEM and meet the urgent need for female voices, engagement, and leadership in the fastest growing sector of the U.S. economy, Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas opened the STEM Center of Excellence in 2018. The STEM Center is a 92-acre state-of-the-art camp just outside of Dallas where girls can experience programs in astronomy, robotics, coding, computer science and more.

The purpose of the new interactive table at the STEM Center for Excellence is to inspire young women and demonstrate that women in STEM are enabling groundbreaking scientific advances to society. It accomplishes a shared goal of GSNETX and IF/THEN®, to showcase women and cultivate a culture shift among young girls to imagine themselves in STEM careers.

The installation was created by The Virtual Wild, and is located in the Rees-Jones Foundation Welcome Center at the STEM Center. It inspires learning and future career opportunities through play.

“We could not be more thrilled to be able to provide our girls and visitors of the STEM Center the opportunity to use the IF/THEN® Ambassador STEM Experience,” said Jennifer Bartkowski, CEO of GSNETX. “The installation perfectly aligns with our mission to introduce our girls to educational and professional opportunities available in the science, technology, engineering and math fields.”

STEM fields and specialties represented in the IF/THEN® Collection range from Wildlife Ecology and Galactic Exploration, to Video Game Production, Sports Statistics Science and beyond. The featured Ambassadors include:

  • Heather Chandler: Game Development Consultant – Heather Makes Games
  • Anamita Guha: Product Manager, Artificial Intelligence – META/Facebook
  • Tiffany Kelly: Sports Data Scientist, CEO and Founder – Curastory
  • Beata Mierzwa: Molecular Biologist/Artist – Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, UC San Diego
  • Burçin Mutlu-Pakdil: Astrophysicist, Postdoctoral Researcher – Steward Observatory
  • Debbie Sterling: Mechanical Engineer and Founder/CEO – Goldieblox
  • Jennifer Stimpson: Scientist & Chemist – Hockaday School (also hosts the interactive experience)
  • Kim Swennen: Senior Software Engineer – Google Arts and Culture, Actress
  • Kirsten Tulchin-Francis: Biochemist and Bioengineer – Nationwide Children’s Hospital
  • Rae Wynn-Grant: Large Carnivore Ecologist, National Geographic Society Fellow

GSNETX previously partnered with The Virtual Wild on Geo Quest AR app for The STEM Center’s geology trail. The digital archeology experience allows girls to first look for fossils on the app and then dig up 3D printed fossils at the end of the trail. The IF/THEN® Ambassador Experience, funded through a grant from IF/THEN® to Girl Scouts of the USA, is the second project in a five-year strategic partnership between Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas and The Virtual Wild to expand digital immersive experiences that enhance learning while complementing outdoor adventures.

“We are passionate about creating emerging media experiences that increase representation for girls and inspire them to see themselves as the next generation of leaders in STEM.” said Jay Rutherford, Founder of The Virtual Wild. “We are so excited to see young girl scouts embracing cutting edge technologies to see themselves reflected in the incredible achievements of the If/Then ambassadors.”

IF/THEN® previously joined forces with Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) to invest in and raise the profiles of women in STEM and inspire the next generation of girls to consider STEM Careers. Through this partnership, GSUSA developed STEM Career Exploration badges for girls in grades 2nd – 8th. The badges provide girls the opportunity to explore their career interests and connect to STEM Fields–particularly computer science, nature/environmental science, engineering, design, health, and agriculture–that can help them address the pressing issues of our time and change our world. Girls who engage in the IF/THEN® Ambassador Experience can leverage this technology towards earning the IF/THEN® STEM Career Exploration badge.

In addition to offering world-class STEM programming locally, GSNETX’s STEM Center of Excellence has become a model across the country of how to offer relevant, exciting, hands-on STEM programming in a natural environment. GSNETX continues to offer new programs specifically designed to help girls experience college and careers as they prepare to make choices about their future. In the Dallas-Fort Worth area, women hold only 23% of all STEM jobs, which is higher than the country average. As Dallas becomes a hub for STEM-related jobs, Girl Scouts is ensuring that women are part of the pipeline. 

Recently, the Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas Board of Directors was recognized with Dallas Business Journal’s Outstanding Directors Award and received the Luminary Award from SMU’s Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development.

About the author

Mindia Whittier