Women in STEM careers empower, encourage girls to explore sciences

OPN Architects’ Stacey Hanley opened doors for and the minds of middle school girls at a STEM conference on Oct. 6 at Coe College.

Hanley was one of many community members at the Open Minds, Open Doors event co-sponsored by Grant Wood AEA, American Association of University Women, Coe College, and the Workplace Learning Connection each year to encourage young women in seventh and eighth grade to consider careers in science, technology, engineering and math.

Accompanied by a teacher from their school, girls attend two hands-on workshops, a lunch and learn, STEM Expo and an auditorium-style presentation. All the presenters and workshop leaders are professional working women from a variety of careers and businesses in the Cedar Rapids-Iowa City corridor who volunteer their time.

This year, Hanley introduced her group to architecture through a hands-on workshop activity using programming blocks that the firm regularly uses with clients to identify space needs and how a design might interact with a proposed site. Teams of girls were tasked with designing a civic building using blocks representing various rooms such as community, meeting, and office spaces on an existing site.