Ensuring Girls Reach for the Stars and Beyond

Spotlight on STEM Volunteers, Joe & Rita Wright

What do you get when you combine a retired postal service worker and a mechanical designer? Two EXTRAORDINARY Girl Scout Outdoor STEM Program volunteers, of course! Joe and Rita Wright are and they have been sharing their love and vast knowledge of astronomy with Girl Scouts in our council for over 10 years!

You might call Joe and Rita Professional Amateur Astronomers. Joe oversees the UMKC Observatory and both he and Rita have impressive resumes, accolades and honors for this only being a hobby of theirs!

Joe attributes his initial fascination with astronomy to his father who was a plane mechanic for TWA. He remembers earning his Astronomy Badge at Boy Scout camp and that year his parents bought him a telescope. He would take that telescope to Boy Scout camp outs and would teach others about astronomy. This was just the beginning for Joe! As for Rita, she was fascinated by everything she learned from Joe and it became a passion of hers as well!

Just as fascinating as their path to interest in astronomy is their involvement in Girl Scouts! When Joe relocated the Boy Scout troop he was leading (and the troop he earned is Eagle Scout in) to a new church, the church asked what they were going to do for girls. So, they formed a multi-level Girl Scout troop! While they have a son and a daughter, neither was involved in Scouting. Joe and Rita chose to lead these groups because they felt like it was important to their community.

Combining their love of astronomy and Scouting programs, Joe and Rita were invited to a training at the University of Arizona to learn how to bring more astronomy programs to Girl Scouts in 20114. They worked with other Girl Scout trainers and under Dr. Don McCarthy developing programs to bring back to Girl Scouts of NE Kansas & NW Missouri.

Every spring and fall Joe and Rita put on multiple STEM in the Outdoors Programs at Camp Tongawood for Girl Scouts of all levels. Joe and Rita ensure each program is progressive so that girls can continue building on their knowledge, if they choose. Girl Scouts who attend one of their programs will use Joe and Rita’s incredible equipment like telescopes, infrared cameras, specialized lights and measurement tools that Joe and Rita haul out to Girl Scout camp in an old converted scout trailer! Girls will get to see and touch unique artifacts such as meteoroids and dessert glass. But most importantly, they will be challenged to answer their own questions by two very passionate and caring volunteers who hope to inspire just a little interest into the field of astronomy.  “We want girls to learn from their peers if they don’t understand. We don’t just give them the answers, we try to weasel it out of them!” Joe said.

Since 2004 they have participated in eight different astronomical education trainings in their spare time, often writing applications and proposals and securing the funding themselves to cover the costs of their attendance so they can further their knowledge to share with community.

This summer they will travel to Greenbelt, MD to the Goddard Space Flight Center with two Girl Scout Ambassadors from our council for “Reaching for the Stars: NASA Science for Girl Scouts.” We are just one of 10 councils selected to participate in the new 5-year space science education program that will bring together Girl Scouts with scientists, engineers and educators at NASA and beyond! They will help create a new series of Space Science badges for Girl Scouts nationwide and the groundwork to create a council-wide astronomy club!

Also this summer, Joe and Rita have been invited to be part of the staff for the first-ever Girl Scout destination at the University of Arizona-Steward Observatory! As if their summer wasn’t busy enough, they’re also coordinating community events around the Kansas City area for the solar eclipse that will happen on August 21, 2017!

“Most of our joy is in the programs we do for Girl Scouts. It’s seeing the lightbulb for the girls come on. It clicks and that’s what inspires us and rejuvenates us,” Joe said.

Joe and Rita are truly life-long learners who are inspired by Girl Scouts to continue pursuing and sharing their passion for astronomy, and we are so lucky to have them as volunteers!

Be sure you follow our social media channels as we share what Joe, Rita and the two Girl Scout Ambassadors are up to in Goddard, MD this summer at their NASA training!

Going Gold with STEM

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Introducing Senior Girl Scout Jolly Patro’s Take Action Project

When most girls have a Friday off from school they’re ready to spend time with friends or spend the day relaxing. For Jolly Patro, an aspiring Gold Award Girl Scout, it’s a day to do something she loves – service. On this particular Friday in September, Jolly spent her day off at Children’s Mercy Hospital handing out her first STEM kits for her Gold Award project. This awesome Girl Scout Senior from Troop 107 in Olathe, KS is on her path to Gold by combining her love of helping kids, STEM and education.

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Jolly Patro is a sophomore at Olathe North high school and a girl of many talents. She’s involved in Science Olympiad, works at Kumon, plays the viola, is an officer in her school service club, a member of student council and volunteers at Children’s Mercy! Talk about a go-getter! Yet no matter how busy she is, she always finds time for Girl Scouts and most recently, for her Gold Award project.

She began working on her Gold Award after going to Inspire a Girl in April 2015. “One of my friends got her Gold Award at Inspire a Girl, so I started mine after that ceremony. I thought ‘this is something I can do’ after talking with the other recipients that day,” Jolly said. Seeing the other projects and having earned her Bronze & Silver Awards, Jolly knew it was something she wanted to earn.

While Jolly’s path is STEM focused now, her favorite things to do as a younger Girl Scout involved camping and her friends. “My favorite part [of Girl Scouts] was camping because I got to spend the night with my best friends and camp in cool places like the Zoo or Timberlake,” Jolly said. As she got older she became interested in careers where she could help people and turned her sights to medicine.  “I want to be a pediatrician […] and I want to work with kids,” Jolly said.

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Her Gold Award project consists of creating STEM kits for the children at Children’s Mercy. They include activities that require common components (string, aluminum foil and tape), so they can easily be reused in the future. For Jolly, it was the perfect combination for her interests. “I started my Gold Award project and knew I wanted to do something with science, medicine and kids. So I thought of Children’s Mercy and we worked together to come up with the idea for STEM kits for the kids,” Jolly said.

These kits not only give the kids something to do while they spend time at the hospital, they inspire them to learn about a variety of STEM-focused areas. “The kits we currently have are a robotic hand kit, parachute challenge kit, zipline challenge kit, structure challenge kit and an adventure kit,” Jolly said. It’s truly engaging the children of the future. Jolly even talked about the power of STEM, Girl Scouts and her project at the GEHA Golf Tournament in September where $100K was donated to Girl Scouts! Jolly’s inspiring story as a driven Girl Scout had the audience on their feet, applauding her success.

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Just as her Gold Award project is hoping to inspire kids to learn more about STEM, she believes that giving to Girl Scouts does the same thing – creates a better next generation. “Girl Scouts tackle all topics, not just one area, like STEM. Girl Scouts conquer everything. You know that you’re shaping the women of tomorrow [by supporting Girl Scouts]. If someone donates, they’re helping girls for a better tomorrow, a better next generation,” said Jolly. “You’re helping the next generation when you give to Girl Scouts, that’s the most important thing,” Jolly said.

This inspiring young woman plans to stay active in Girl Scouts because of the bonds she has with her Girl Scout sisters and the unique opportunities that Girl Scouts offers. “By sticking with your troop, you get to stay with girls you’ve been with for years, you meet new girls and you all bond over Girl Scouts. With busy schedules you don’t always have time to see each other, but when you’re in Girl Scouts, you always have that one time you’re together during Girl Scouts. It also gives you so many opportunities. That’s why I stay with Girl Scouts,” Jolly said. “Without Girl Scouts, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.”

Her biggest piece of advice to other girls planning to do their Gold Award is to pick something you’re really passionate about. “Pick something you’re passionate about because that’s the only thing you’ll be willing to spend that much time doing,” Jolly said. She found her passion and is thrilled to be sharing it.

What an inspiring young woman! We thank Jolly for all her amazing work and for being an inspiring young woman. Know another awesome Girl Scout working toward Gold?  Share her story in the comments below!

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Engineering a Life of Service to Women in STEM

A Gold Award Alumna Spotlight: Katie Lin

What does saber throwing and industrial engineering have in common? Besides an understanding of physics and being able to react to changing conditions, not much else comes to mind, right? For Girl Scout Gold Award Alumna and Lifetime Member, Katie Lin, the two are linked in her life through Girl Scouts and the STEM experiences that she’s been exposed to since childhood. Now the president of the KC chapter of Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and an engineer, Katie Lin is living a life of leadership, STEM and service to women in her community.

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Growing up in Texas, Katie joined Girl Scouts as a Daisy and stayed through high school. Her mother served as troop leader or co-leader for the majority of her years and she remembers getting to do exciting outdoor adventures, service activities and growing as a leader. “Girl Scouts impacted me a lot in terms of leadership. I’m a shy person, especially when I was younger, and Girl Scouts helped me with public speaking and I learned to get involved. That has carried through my whole life,” Katie said.

Her troop, 5029, took advantage of their location by visiting sites like the USS Lexington, a naval ship permanently docked in Corpus Christi, Texas. “We spent the night and got to see what it was like to work on a ship like that. We got to sleep in bunkers…wash the planes in the morning…and sit in the cockpit chairs. As a troop, we really enjoyed that,” Katie said. It was experiences like this that exposed Katie to new things and helped shape her as a leader.

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In high school Katie had her sights on earning her Gold Award, having earned her Silver Award with her troop. As a member of color guard (a sport that combines dance, flag handling and rifle throwing), she saw an opportunity to educate younger girls about the sport many don’t know about. “Color guard is one of the few activities you can join in high school without having experience. With sports, dance teams, orchestra, band, they want skilled performers or players who have done it in the past. With color guard, you didn’t need any prior experience,” Katie said. Her project was to create a camp for younger girls to learn about color guard and the opportunities it provided.

After finding a passion for STEM in high school, Katie packed her bags and moved to Columbia, MO to join the engineering program at the University of Missouri (MU). Engineering wasn’t always on the top of Katie’s list of careers, partly because her parents were geological engineers and studied rocks for a living. “Most of our family vacations were to national parks where they would try to explain to me how things were formed…and I thought ‘it’s pretty, but I don’t care.’ So I didn’t want to be an engineer because I thought they studied rocks. It wasn’t until high school that I realized there were all these different kinds of engineering and that I liked math and science and that I was good at it,” Katie said.

While at MU, she met the man who is now her husband, Hao Lin, a fellow engineer who moved with his family from China to St. Louis, Missouri when he was 13. It was at MU that she first found SWE and served as the president of the MU chapter for two years. SWE’s goal is to help female engineers network, learn about the industry and support one another. After moving to Kansas City to work at Honeywell, she got involved with the local SWE chapter and now is serving as its president as her way of giving back to women in her STEM community.

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As a female engineer, Katie believes in encouraging young women to explore STEM fields as career options. “Engineering is one of the few fields that hasn’t progressed [in terms of gender equality]. I think women are currently around 18% [of the engineering workforce]. It’s important for girls to understand that there are opportunities for STEM. A lot of girls like math and science, but may not understand what engineering is or that it can be a good career,” Katie said. That’s why she not only encourages young girls to participate in STEM activities, but is also a Girl Scout supporter as a member of Daisy’s Circle (the monthly giving program for GSKSMO). She also encourages young women to network through groups like SWE NEXT, which is a free membership level in SWE for girls under 18 curious about engineering.

Through Girl Scouts, Katie found the confidence to thrive, to speak up and to have the courage to be an engineer. “In engineering, you have to be courageous and wanting to take the initiative to try something new. Especially being a woman in a male dominated field, you have to be those things. That is something Girl Scouts helped me with,” Katie said. Today, she gets to travel for work and as a hobby, leads a community of STEM women and leads a happy life as an engineer.  Thank you, Katie, for your inspiring work and for continuing to connect women in STEM.

If you know of a great Gold Award Alumna story, share with us in the comments below!

 

Spring Break Girl Scout STEM Style

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For most kids, spring break means a time to relax, take a break from school and do some mindless activities. However we know that Girl Scouts aren’t like “most kids.” For 15 Girl Scouts, spring break gave them the opportunity to do some hands on learning and career exploration with the world’s oldest pharmaceutical and chemical company, MilliporeSigma!

MilliporeSigma has an impressive portfolio. They help to create, improve and pro-long life, continuously working to make a lasting difference to patients’ lives. Some of the pharmaceutical medicines they create treat cancer, multiple sclerosis, infertility, growth disorders, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and thyroid disorders.

When MilliporeSigma started their #sparkcuriosity initiative to educate youth in the community about science and the career opportunities associated with it, MilliporeSigma employee and troop leader Carolyn Bailey knew just who just to pilot the program with – Girl Scouts.

On Friday March 18, Girl Scouts got to be a scientist for a day at MilliporeSigma’s Lenexa location. They rotated between three stations: Production Tour, Biology Lab and the Chemistry/Quality Control Lab.

Girl Scout Cadette Maggie Ferney wants to be scientist and she’s particularly interested in cancer cure research. “I didn’t know any of this actually existed,” she said.

That’s exactly why MilliporeSigma started this program.

For MilliporeSigma employee, Kate Hellman, she sees this as a way to actually show kids what a career in a science field might look like. “We talk a lot in school about science, but you don’t actually get to see all the ways that it’s used,” she explained. “This shows what normal people in their community do with science.”

Each of the stations had hands on learning experiences. On the production tour, they saw what goes into making the pharmaceuticals on both the large and small scale. The girls got to handle a pin discs that churn the powder in the mills. The girls were shocked when they learned that the cost of the set of medical grade, stainless steel discs costs about $10,000! They also got to see the freezer where animal component chemicals are kept between -10 and -40 degrees!

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One part of what MilliporeSigma does for their customers is test cells to maintain the integrity of the product. Girls followed an “SOP” or Standard Operating Procedure for counting cells on a Vi-Cell XR. This machine has improved efficiency in the chemistry field and eliminates the need for scientists to manually count the living and dead cells on slides!

Those cells that they counted have to be kept alive with proper nutrients which are created in the biology lab. Before “feeding” them to the cells, they must be tested to make sure they have the proper makeup so the girls also pulled samples from a 3L Bioreactor to make sure that everything was good!

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In the chemistry lab, the girls learned all about how pH levels are vital to everything we are. Your body has to maintain certain pH levels to survive, everyday cleaning agents must have a specific pH level to be effective and chemical reactions are regulated by pH levels! They got to experiment with different chemical agents such as vinegar, baking soda and water to see what types of Sodium Bicarbonates they could create. And boy did they create. “That’s the oddest color I’ve ever seen,” was MilliporeSigma employee, Kevin’s reaction to one of the groups experimenting!

At the end of the morning, the questions came flooding in from Girl Scouts. They asked questions like “how much schooling do you need?” and “where do machine parts come from?” When asked how many of them want to be a scientist or dream of working in a STEM field one day, ¾ of them said “yes!”

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It is experiences like what MilliporeSigman and Girl Scouts collectively provide that show girls that they can pursue any career they dream of. “I want to be a scientist, rocket engineer or Astronaut; maybe I’ll even build the rocket that will take me into space,” Clara Gust said.

Thanks for an awesome event and for sparking curiosity in our awesome Girl Scouts, MilliporeSigma!

The Power of the Three Girl Scout Cs’ Last a Lifetime

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To be a college athlete you have to have three things that are also trademarks of a great Girl Scout – courage, confidence and character. It takes courage to face a tough opponent, confidence in team and character to play by the rules so everyone stays safe. It’s no wonder many Girl Scouts become student athletes when they enter college. Girl Scout Alumna Molly Ross is on such alumna who is finding her own path in the male dominated fields of sports and STEM.

MollyRossCollage1Molly became a Girl Scout in elementary school, loving the field trips and getting to do service with friends. In high school, it became a way to make a real difference and try new things. Beyond loving the experience herself, Scouting was a family affair. Molly’s brothers were Boy Scouts, her father was their leader and her mother is a Girl Scout Alumna and First Class recipient (former name of the Gold Award). It was her mother’s experience that inspired Molly to achieve her biggest Girl Scout goal – complete all three major awards (Bronze, Silver and Gold). “I knew it was a big thing for her, so I figured it would probably be a big thing for me and something I’d be really proud of doing,” Molly said.

In 2014 Molly was awarded the Gold Award for her project establishing a Junior Ranger Program at a nearby historical landmark – the Shawnee Indian Mission in Fairway, Kansas. “Growing up I earned about 60 Junior Ranger badges; I love history and I feel like it’s forgotten about sometimes. The Indian Mission was just down the street from me and most people in the area don’t realize how big of an impact it had on our community,” Molly said. The program Molly developed engages children with the site through activities like a scavenger hunt and bingo. Completing this project was a highlight of Molly’s Girl Scout experience and a fantastic accomplishment on her resume as she headed to college visits.  After earning her Gold, Molly’s troop decided to take one last big adventure together – to get out of the country.

The summer between high school and college Troop 1476 took a trip to Costa Rica. The trip gave her a unique opportunity to go whitewater rafting and see a completely new part of the world. “I’d been to Canada and Mexico, but I hadn’t been REALLY out of the country, so this was a way to see a new culture and try new things,” Molly said. What a perfect way to transition into life as an alumna – exploring a new country, completing the highest award and expanding a program she loved.

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Today, Molly is a sophomore at Kansas State University majoring in Mechanical Engineering and a member of the rowing team. Coming from a family of engineers and having a passion for cars, engineering was a natural fit. “I like working with machines, designing things and I’m really good at math and science, so it was the best fit. It’s amazing to me that so many people drive cars and have no idea how they work,” Molly said. Despite being one of only two or three girls in most of her engineering classes, Molly is a proud woman in STEM and knows this is where her passion lies.

As a member of the rowing team Molly is under the leadership of fellow Girl Scout Alumna, Hanna Wiltfong (“Coach H”) and held to high standards of excellence. Being a student athlete can be a challenge, constantly trying to balance school, practices, workouts and a social life. However, because of the skills she learned as a Girl Scout, Molly feels she is able to manage college life easier than many of her peers. “I see a lot of people not fully grasping time management in college, but because of what I learned in Girl Scouts, even as an athlete with daily workouts, a job and school, it’s a lot easier for me,” Molly said.

Molly Ross is an amazing example of how skills learned in Girl Scout help create the leaders of tomorrow. As a student athlete and a woman in STEM, Molly proving that even in two areas traditionally dominated by men, girls can do anything they’re passionate about. Her love of machines lead her to engineering and no one is going to stop her – that’s real courage, confidence, and character!

“The more women that realize they want to be an athlete or an engineer, the more women are going to be involved in those two things. They’re not necessarily male dominated because men are better suited for the field…it’s because women who could go into those fields just don’t,” Molly said.

Athlete, woman in STEM and high achiever – what an inspiring Girl Scout Alumna! We are so inspired by women who take the skills they learned in Girl Scouts and translate into successful lives as Alumna. If you have an inspiring Alumna story to share, comment below!