Math Options program shows 'book math' in practice

Can a Popsicle-stick bridge help a middle-school girl cross the engineering and mathematics gender gap? Organizers of the Math Options Career Day at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, believe it can.

The Popsicle workshop is one of 39 interactive classes that will be offered at this year’s Math Options program, on May 8. More than 260 seventh- and eighth-grade girls will participate in the event, which begins at 8 a.m.

The girls attend 46 different schools in Erie, Crawford, Warren and Potter counties. They are less likely than their male classmates to find careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, according to studies.

The Math Options workshops, taught by Penn State Behrend faculty and by women employed by the region’s largest technical companies, including GE Transportation and LORD Corp., attempt to close that gap.

The programs expose the girls to female role models. They also show the real-life applications of “book math”: Students in this year’s courses will power robotic arms, use heat to create sound and alter the flow of tabletop water streams.

They also will hear from two keynote speakers: Catherine Franks, a mechanical engineer at FMC Technologies Measurement Solutions, and Heather Yahn, a West Point graduate who works as a project manager in health-care construction.

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Last Updated May 01, 2012