Women educate female high school students about technology fields at FiT conference

April 22, 2013

Twelve high school students crowded around the table of Stacey Pollert, an ISU alumna and master scheduler at Comlux Aviation in Indianapolis, eager to hear about working for a company that creates corporate and VIP aircraft cabins.

Pollert talked about designing the interior of a plane from an empty cabin, even mentioning aircrafts that resembled houses on the inside, with bedrooms, living rooms and kitchens.

"She said they had a client that flew from Paris to New York in one of their planes all because he wanted some kind of food," said Hannah Harden, a junior at West Vigo High School.

Pollert-a licensed pilot--described her experience working in the aviation field as part of a networking activity during the 6th annual FiT for the Future Conference last week. The event, hosted by Indiana State University's Females in Technology student group, featured interactive workshops, networking activities with ISU alumnae, a raffle and a techno fashion show.

"We're trying to attract females to technology and engineering by getting them excited using hands-on activities and role models who are doing interesting work in those fields," said Bev Bitzegaio, director of outreach and student careers at Indiana State's College of Technology.

Women are traditionally underrepresented in technology fields, said FiT President Molly Joseph, a junior technology and engineering education major from Paris, Ill.

"With technology jobs, there just aren't enough workers. Without women, you're missing about half the population," she said. "A lot of young students just aren't aware of many careers in technology. I know I wasn't in high school."

That was the same case for Harden.

"While I'm still thinking pre-med, the conference opened my eyes to a lot of different things you can do," she said. "This was really interesting."

For sophomore Haley Gates of Paris High School, the conference helped specify what she wants to study in the future.

"I was on the borderline between architecture and engineering," she said. But after talking with Megan Brown, an ISU alumna and engineer at Turner Construction, she said she has settled on engineering.

"The way she described it sounded like something I would like," Gates said. "It sounded fun and interesting."

Bitzegaio noted that the chance to talk with women who are professionals in technology, as well as college students studying in those fields, is an important aspect of the conference.

"Research shows that role models influence what fields students go into," said Bitzegaio.

The professionals provided helpful advice about college and careers, as students asked questions ranging from how many hours are in an average work week to how students are graded in college.

Pollert emphasized the importance of word of mouth when looking for a full-time position.

"Every job I've had has been from networking, ISU, or a previous job," said Pollert.

During the morning, students learned firsthand through interactive activities. In "When Pigs Fly," sophomore Katie Maynard of Paris High School described an experiment where students attempted to drop an egg without breaking it. In another activity, known as light painting, students created light designs in photographs using a dark room, lengthened exposure setting and one light source.

During the conference's opening, Bitzegaio introduced FabFems, a national database of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics who can serve as role models for young women. She said it is an online resource students can look into even after the conference at www.fabfems.org

Joseph hopes the high school students left with a better idea of opportunities and what it is like to work in a technical field.

"We want them to be successful in the future," Joseph said, to help "get them jobs."

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/Events/FIT-for-the-Future/i-V44sX4m/0/L/Fit%20Workshop-1129April%2010%2C%202013-L.jpg (ISU/Rachel Keyes) Stacey Pollert, an Indiana State University alumna and professional at Comlux Aviation in Indianapolis, talks with students during a networking activity at the FiT for the Future conference at iSU.

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/Events/FIT-for-the-Future/i-8X6wL4w/0/L/Fit%20Workshop-0949April%2010%2C%202013-L.jpg (ISU/Rachel Keyes)Local high school students participate in a workshop during the 6th annual FiT for the Future Conference at Indiana State University. Contact: Bev Bitzegaio, director of outreach and student careers, College of Technology, Indiana State University, at 812-237-2575 or bev.bitzegaio@indstate.edu

Writer: Bethany Donat, media relations assistant, ISU Office of Communications and Marketing, 812-237-3773, bdonat@sycamores.indstate.edu

Story Highlights

Females in Technology hosted the 6th annual FiT for the Future conference, where ISU alumnae, along with female professors and professionals in technology fields introduced female high school students to science, technology, engineering and math fields.

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