CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Female students from Albemarle High School’s Math Engineering and Science Academy (MESA) gathered at Center I for their second annual MAPS event.
MAPS, short for Math, Architecture, Physics, and Science, aims to reach middle school girls, and show that they can pursue careers in math and science.
“We thought, if we show them from a young age, that stem is not only possible, but fun and entertaining and can be so engaging,” MAPS co-organizer and Albemarle High School sophomore Kat Ravichandran explained. “Then maybe they’d want to pursue it further.”
MAPS day features demonstrations and presentations about Science, Technology, Engineering and math, featuring women currently working in STEM. The day culminates in a Q&A session with the guests.
“We’re having a wide range of people from engineering to architecture to like math, talking about their experience as women in the STEM field,” Albemarle High School senior and event co-organizer Maryam Alwan said. "We’re going to have the girls ask them questions and ask them some of our own questions.”
The event is completely organized by high school students. It began in 2019 after the students noticed a lack of girls in their tech classes.
“I took computer science in sophomore year, and I had a bunch of friends who are girls who want to take it with me," Alwan said. "So they did but then they all dropped out within the first week because it was all boys, and I was like one of the only two people, two girls to stay in the class.”
The organizers, and faculty supervisors like math teacher Bill Daly, say targeting the students early, before they get to high school, is key.
“The fear is that when they get to high school, they think a step of STEM is something that’s either just a boys game or something that potentially they might not even be able to pursue," Ravichandran said.
“Girls often are left out of the STEM fields," Daly explained. "So it’s really important for them to see when they’re in middle school, what kind of things that they can go into other exciting opportunities that they have and see that there are other women in STEM fields and girls in the high school that are really doing fantastic things.”
The students are all enrolled in Albemarle High School’s Math, Engineering, and Science Academy (MESA).