Girl Day: Opportunities to Explore Science & Technology at OSC

High School Science Teacher
Jackson City Schools
Wednesday, February 25, 2015 - 9:11am
DiscoverE Girl Day logo

Ed. – Girl Day, sponsored by DiscoverE (formerly the National Engineers Week Foundation), is being celebrated this year on Feb. 26. A veteran Teacher Counselor for OSC's summer STEM programs, high school science teacher Jenny Lang shares her perspective on the importance of STEM opportunities for girls. For information on supporting vital OSC's summer K-12 programs, please visit:

As an educator, I feel that it is important to help young people develop an understanding and appreciation of science and technology. It is also important that all students should be introduced to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) careers. Yet the U.S. Census Bureau reports that women remain underrepresented in STEM fields, particularly in computer science and engineering occupations. If we are to increase the number of women in STEM fields then we should make sure that girls are given ample opportunities to explore science and technology.

Lang with students
Lang assisting YWSI students at the Center.

OH-TECH provides these types of opportunities through summer education programs at the Ohio Supercomputer Center. Two summer programs, the Summer Institute and the Young Women’s Summer Institute, allow students to engage in creative problem solving by investigating real-world scientific projects. Both summer programs bring campers from across Ohio to spend time at the Center.

At Summer Institute, high school students spend two weeks working in small groups with enthusiastic mentors to complete a STEM-related project. The two-week time span gives students the opportunity for collaboration and in-depth creative problem solving that is often lacking in the traditional school day.

In the early days of the 26-year-old Summer Institute program, a large majority of the campers were young men, but more and more young women are now attending the institute. In 2014, almost half of the campers were female. Young women at the Summer Institute are able to share their unique ideas in these small group settings where all students are supported and exploration is encouraged.




Lang being interviewed in 2010 about the importance of SI and YWSI.



The Young Women’s Summer Institute was created in part to encourage more young women to apply to the Summer Institute program and eventually pursue more STEM education. At the Young Women’s Institute, middle school girls work on an environmental-science based project. Many young women already are interested in environmental science, but at YWSI, girls also are introduced to a variety of other STEM fields. For example, campers use math and chemistry to understand environmental data. The girls also have the opportunity to step out into nature and get their hands dirty by taking water samples from a creek bed and catching live macro-invertebrates (underwater bugs and crustaceans). Young Women’s Summer Institute is successful in fostering girls’ interest in STEM; several former campers have gone on to attend Summer Institute, and many have continued to pursue STEM majors in college.

Lang with student in the field
Lang (far right) with students in the field

One of the most valuable features of these summer programs are the opportunities for students to interact with adults who are engaged in STEM careers. Graduate students and professionals work with the students and provide tours of science facilities. Each year, YWSI hosts a career night where young women in STEM fields are invited to interact with the YWSI campers. The speakers not only talk about themselves and their careers, but they also get to know the girls by playing games and answering questions. Campers also interact with women in STEM fields outside of YWSI’s career night.

In recent years, students from both summer programs have visited enthusiastic female scientists working at different facilities, such as those at The Ohio State University’s Department of Physics, Department of Chemistry, and Center of Applied Plant Sciences.

The Summer Institute and the Young Women’s Summer Institute are both providing young women with opportunities to meet women already participating in STEM fields as well as the chance to tackle and solve scientific problems themselves. These are the types of programs that can encourage more young woman to pursue STEM careers.