SCHERERVILLE | Merrillville High School senior Briana Williams was among nearly 175 female students from six high schools in Lake County who attended the HerWorld conference at the Patrician Banquet Center in Schererville.
The conference, titled "Be an Innovator: Women are Making a Difference Through Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)," was designed to encourage young women's interest in STEM, and show them it's all around them from driving a car to going to the movies to even taking a shower. HerWorld is a program of Devry University.
Students who attended the event came from Hammond High School, West Side Leadership Academy and Lew Wallace STEM Academy in Gary, Highland High School, Merrillville High School and Lake Central High School in St. John.
Williams, whose father is a pharmacist, said she will be a pre-med student and eventually become a surgeon. One of the things Williams, 17, said she learned from the conference is that women need to be empowered to follow their career choice.
"There are opportunities out there for women in STEM and they don't have to limit themselves," she said. "We can be in these fields. As a black woman, I want to be a surgeon. I've set my goals high, and I'm confident in myself and my ability to reach my goals."
Lake Central High School senior Caroline Ascher-Brown, 18, intends to join the Air Force and major in combat services.
"I came here because I've been experimenting with certain career fields, and I wanted to get a better idea of the different career fields in engineering," she said. "I think this is a great idea to do this and show that women can have the same advantages as guys."
LaTonya Armstrong, program dean for the College of Business and Management at DeVry University, Tinley Park campus, told girls STEM careers play a vital role in everything around them.
She talked about the socket ball, a soccer ball that harnesses and stores energy from play for later use as a portable power source in resource-poor areas, which was designed by undergraduate students at Harvard University. Armstrong also talked about the One Laptop per Child program, expressly designed for the world's poorest children living in the most remote environments.
Candace Scholz, an engineer and project manager for Strand Associates Inc. in Joliet, Ill., talked about the engineer's role in a disaster such as a hurricane. She said engineers are needed when the electrical or transportation infrastructures, or the drinking water and waste-water systems break down.
Scholz said an engineer will develop a plan to repair or renovate the systems.
Scholz said employers look for people with engineering degrees.
"Push through the pain," she said. "You're going for a STEM degree.
"Have confidence in yourself. Push through, get through the classes, get the degree," Scholz said.
More online: http://www.devry.edu/stemready/