Grymes Students Participate in All-Girls STEM Challenge

March 8, 2017
March 8, 2017

Grymes Students Participate in All-Girls STEM Challenge

If you were to listen to Andrea Payette ‘17, Lily Wiley ‘17 and Ally Keating ‘18 describe their adventure a few weekends ago, you would see a sparkle in their eyes as they say things like “It was so fun!” and “I can’t wait to do that again next year!” From the electric buzz of excitement, big smiles and enthusiastic responses, you might think they had attended some kind of pop concert.

You would be wrong.

The girls-only competition is designed to encourage girls to focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math)-based fields, where women are traditionally underrepresented.

Andrea, Lily and Ally spent a Saturday afternoon at the annual Expedition 2KM STEM summit. Held each year at The Foxcroft School in Middleburg, the girls-only competition is designed to encourage girls in Middle School and High School to focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math)-based fields, where women are traditionally underrepresented. Working in teams of three or four with a teacher sponsor, Middle School and High School-aged girls from schools near and far compete in a number of timed challenges and brainteasers that offer students opportunities to think creatively, develop collaborative skills working with others, and gain confidence in fields so often reserved for boys.

Andrea, Lily and Ally, with Upper School Spanish and 8th Grade Homeroom teacher Melanie Handelsman as their faculty sponsor, had six challenges to complete throughout the day, each with a different set of instructions, materials and information. Each challenge was unique in its own way, with a different focus and set of tasks or problem to solve. Some challenges required a written explanation, others asked only for an answer. What they all had in common: each challenge was timed, with a limit of seventeen minutes to complete the task in its entirety. Teams were scored not just for a correct answer but also by the clock.

“It was kind of intense to have to work through some pretty complicated problems with the clock ticking away, but it was actually really fun because it wasn’t like we were getting a grade on anything. We just did our best and tried our hardest, and we were able to laugh at ourselves at the same time,” says Andrea.

“The best part was working together, applying ourselves and using our brains.”

“Right,” adds Lily. “Being able to work together to solve the problems as a team was the best part. We didn’t always know the answer – and we really got stumped on a few questions that had us scratching our heads – but we didn’t give up and had fun at least trying!”

As Ally noted, while some challenges were trickier than others, “the important thing was that we were determined. Even when we didn’t really know the best way to approach a problem, we didn’t give up.”

When asked if they felt well-equipped for the challenges coming from Grymes, they all unanimously agreed. “Coming from Grymes, we had seen a lot of the material before in our science and math classes, and we were able to apply what we already knew to the challenges,” says Andrea. “I’d say it definitely helped to have a good background to work from!”

“Grymes has taught us to think outside the box, and it definitely helped to think of each problem with an open and positive mind. We were able to stay calm and work together as a team to approach the challenges from different angles,” adds Lily.

“I think also, being from Grymes, we all knew each other so well and already had such a great connection that we were able to work together as a team really well,” says Ally, who as a seventh grader was the youngest of the team of three. “That was a real advantage over teams from bigger schools who weren’t as close and were getting to know each other while also having to complete the challenges.”

For these three Grizzlies, the STEM competition was a fun way to practice teamwork, grit and creative problem solving. “The best part was working together, applying ourselves and using our brains,” laughs Lily. “We had a great time.”

What better way to spend a Saturday? We couldn’t be prouder of our students who challenge themselves in new ways! Way to go, Andrea, Lily and Ally!