SAUSD Femineers are “High Performers”

Contributed by Ruth Abatzoglou

The Career Technical Education, CTE department in Santa Ana Unified School District, SAUSD recognizes the need to inspire more girls in STEM classes and collaborated with teachers to create four Femineer Clubs to help prepare students for STEM Careers. The Femineer Program was developed by Cal Poly Pomona’s College of Engineering to inspire girls to pursue STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) careers and there are clubs across the nation.  In SAUSD the clubs are located at the following schools; Lathrop Intermediate, McFadden Intermediate, Advanced Learning Academy and Segerstrom High School.
Group of girls standing around a table. Orange matchbox ramp in the middle
I applied to the NGCP No Limits application with the idea that this would be a great tool to help inform our community about the Femineer Clubs we have in SAUSD and also inspire other girls in the school district to participate in the clubs. When the NGCP announced groups that had been accepted for this project, the Femineers from Cal Poly reached out to us and offered to help with our event. We were thrilled to have their support and help. Some of our girls from our school district have attended the summer Femineer camp at Cal Poly and knew the college students who were volunteering to help with the event.  The girls were very excited to collaborate with the college students.
Over the month of January, I went to each of the Femineer Club meetings to meet with the girls and prepare them for the High Performers event at the SAUSD School Choice Fair in February. The SAUSD School Choice Fair is a large district wide event where everyone in the community is invited to learn about the different programs in our school district. As part of this event CTE runs a robotic showcase so we were sure to have a large participation of visitors. The event takes place in a local mall so we were sure to have lots of visitors from the city and from neighboring cities as well. This venue gives us a lot of exposure. It was the perfect place for the Femineer “High Performers” event.

Group of people standing around a table of art suppliesDuring the club meetings in January, the girls were excited and enjoyed engineering the toy cars and viewing the videos on Ewy Rosqvist. The video with Ewy Rosqvist winning the Grand Prix, was very inspiring to all!  An added goal of meeting with the clubs was to get the girls prepared to run the event at the school Choice Fair in the MainPlace Mall in February and help them develop their leadership skills as they shared information about the Femineer Clubs we have in SAUSD.  The club members were asked to bring some of the projects the girls had made as part of the Femineer program to the event so there was a lot to share with the visitors.  During the club meeting, the girls explored engineering the cars by adding metal washers and stick-on gems to change the weight of the cars. It was great to see how the girls discovered they could make their cars run faster on the track by altering the weight to the cars.
By the end of January, I had met with the four clubs, almost 100 girls, where they had the opportunity to watch Ewy Rosquest’s video and engineered the cars and practice racing them on the eight-foot track we purchased as part of the grant money. We were ready for the event!

The School Choice Fair took place at the MainPlace Mall in Santa Ana on a Saturday afternoon in February. Schools and programs are spread out throughout the mall and the different programs setup up booths to showcase their programs. We had eight tables set-up in a line for the Femineers High Performers.  The first table was used to check in the visitors and included a three questions survey to collect data on grade level and STEM interest. We also had a table at the end to survey the impact of the event on those participating. It was a large event and we had a lot of people streaming through our section, so our survey didn’t capture everyone participating, but it did give us a good sample of the total participants. Based on this sample survey, 75% of the participants were upper elementary and middle school and 68% were girls.

group of people around a large, orange matchbox trackThe first station in our exhibit involved learning about Ewy Rosqvist race by watching the video and talking to the Femineer Club girls. The girls at this station also shared with the visitor’s information about the Femineer Club and some of the projects they made.  The next station was the “Build Table” where visitors added stick-on gems, weights using washers and other embellishments such as colored pens, things we purchased with the grant money. They could also use graphite or WD-40 to lubricate the wheels of the cars. This was the most popular part of the event with the hands-on aspect of this process. The final station was the race track where everyone had chance to use the 8-foot track for a race.  Students and parents found this every engaging too.

We had many happy and euthanasic visitors at the Femineer booths and our data reflect this as well.  Although we weren’t able to capture all the students who visited our booth our sampling showed we surveyed   31% boys and 68% girls and most of the majority were in the middle school level.  The most interesting part of the data shows that after hearing about Ewy Rosqvist and the Femineer Club activities and also getting to work with the toy cars, the participants developed a greater interest in STEM Careers.  The pre-survey indicated an interest in stem at 53.4 % while the post survey showed an increase in interest in STEM Careers of 20% after attending the event. 

Thanks to the National Girls Collaborative Project for organizing this with Mercedes-Benz USA, Mattel, it was a wonderful opportunity to inspire students!

Ruth Abatzoglou is a CTE Program Specialist in SAUSD focusing on STEM Opportunities for students.

NGCP's partnership with Mercedes-Benz USA is tackling the issue of gender stereotypes and showing young girls they can aspire to be and do anything they desire. #GirlsHaveNoLimits. Via NGCP mini-grants, thousands of girls have been gifted a die-cast Matchbox replica of the Mercedes-Benz 220SE commemorating Ewy Rosqvist's historic 1962 Argentinian Grand Prix performance. Learn more about this initiative.