March 16, 2018

Students in the UC Merced chapter of the Society of Women Engineers pose in front of Beginnings sculpture.

More than 400 young women aspiring to careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) attended last week’s Expanding Your Horizons conference. The event, hosted by the UC Merced chapter of the Society of Women Engineers, brought middle and high school students from around Merced County to the UC Merced campus for a day of hands-on STEM activities.

Attendees had opportunities to extract DNA from cells, build do-it-yourself helicopters, perform gravity demonstrations and participate in other activities that were both entertaining and informative. The event also gave students the chance to learn more about STEM careers and connect with female mentors and role models who are active in STEM fields. 

“Our ultimate goal is to disrupt the stereotype. We want girls to pursue STEM just as vigorously as boys,” said Eva Salas, a fourth-year computer science and engineering major who helped organize the event. “In my current classes, I am one of about seven women in a class of 60 people. I hope to one day see engineering classes that are equally divided between boys and girls. We hope that this conference helps shift the numbers for the next generation.”

This was the fifth year UC Merced hosted the regional Expanding Your Horizons event. The first on-campus conference was held in 2014.

Expanding Your Horizons is a nonprofit organization that encourages girls in grades 6-12 to participate in STEM. The organization’s goal is to engage young women early on and kindle their interest in STEM careers.

By all accounts, Saturday’s event was a success.

“The event was packed,” said Irene De La Cruz, publisher and editor of Between Friends, a local publication that helped promote the event. “This is a great example of bringing the surrounding communities of Merced County and others to the university.”

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