Get WISE turns on inspiration for girls

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Dollar Bay seventh-grader Colleen Keranen gets a working light for her “circuit bug” during the Get WISE event at Houghton High School Monday.

HOUGHTON — Women make up less than a quarter of the workforce in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Michigan Technological University is trying to change that.

On Monday, 250 seventh- and eighth-grade girls from 14 schools across the western Upper Peninsula came to Houghton High School Monday as part of Tech’s annual Get WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) event.

The goal is to introduce the girls to STEM and the different career possibilities, said Lauren Kirwin, coordinator at Tech’s Center for Pre-College Outreach.

It’s one of my favorite events that I coordinate just because the girls are so excited, and they don’t really get any other opportunities like this,” she said.

Students were grouped into “villages” named for female STEM pioneers such as Jane Goodall or Lise Meitner.

In one activity, they made a model heart valve that would allow marbles (red blood cells) to travel one way through a cardboard box. They finished the day with “circuit bugs,” where they wired LEDs to light up as the bug’s eyes.