Viterbo breaks barriers to high…

LA CROSSE, Wis. – Often referred to as STEM, science, technology, engineering and math careers are growing fast.

But there are barriers students face going into those careers, including the perceived difficulty, and a new PEW study shows gender is still seen as an impediment to succeeding in STEM careers.

An event at La Crosse’s Viterbo University aimed to break down those barriers for area high schoolers on Friday.

During the annual “Big Bang Friday,” juniors and seniors from more than 20 area schools could choose from five different STEM sessions, including “Glowing Chemistry.”

“We’re just working with some simple chemicals to make a glow stick, which is pretty cool,” La Farge senior Adam Hysel said, adding that classes like this one make STEM careers less intimidating.

“A lot of high schoolers get really scared of the STEM field a lot because science classes are hard and technology classes are hard. I think that’s a big barrier,” he said. “Showing people that it’s not scary and it can be fun, I think that’s what this event is for, for sure.”

In another classroom, students built elaborate contraptions called Rube Goldberg machines.

“I’m hoping they find it fun and they see what kind of techniques we use and that it really is just the next step,” said Tammy Clark, Engineering, Mathematics and Chemistry department chair.

Tammy Clark wants to make STEM more accessible to everyone.

“We need a lot of diversity,” she said. “Having women and minorities in STEM, we need that diversity to be more creative with problem-solving “

“It’s pretty fun because I really like science,” La Farge senior Brianna Shreck said.

This year, Shreck took the glowing chemistry class, but she also explored STEM at the same event last year, and now wants to pursue a career in science.

“I fell in love with it,” she said. “I think if people just go in open-minded about science, they could probably like it, because I like science and I didn’t know I really like science, and here I am.”

Shreck said getting more women into STEM just helps light the way to her future career.

“I think it’s actually pretty cool.”

High schoolers could also take a forensics entomology class where they solved a cold case and a math class where they dove into cryptology.

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