The Road Less Traveled

Fort Dodge Middle School students in October participated in The Road Less Traveled, an annual STEM-based conference held at Iowa State University.

The conference exposes young women to potential careers in science, technology, engineering and math.

A total of 14 students attended. Diane Pratt, FDMS Talented and Gifted instructor, brought her sixth-grade students and teacher Jennifer Larson brought her eighth-grade students.

“They got a chance to go a second time as eighth-graders, and they had a little bit of a different perspective,” Pratt said.

Pratt said it is important for young women to be exposed to careers in STEM areas, opportunities in which are becoming increasingly abundant.

“There’s going to be more opportunities for all people, and especially women, to move into those areas,” she said. “Historically, boys kind of go into the hard math, science, engineering areas, where girls have typically gone into some of the softer areas, literature and language. All of that is changing. It’s changing because we need to have a change, and because girls are more interested in those areas now.”

Grace Champagne, a sixth-grade student at FDMS, said she enjoyed participating in the conference.

“It was really interesting to see the different things people are involved in,” Champagne said. “We went to different stations and we learned different engineering designs, and math and science. We went to some pretty interesting ones. There were ones that talked about business design and meteorology.”

Champagne said areas of the conference appealed to her interests.

“I was really interested in the business design,” she said. “We went to this one, and you had to run a chocolate factory. It was an online thing. It was really cool to see how much money you had and what you had to buy.”

Marissa Richardson, an eighth-grade student, said she enjoyed attending the conference a second time.

“I got more information from it the second time,” Richardson said. “The first time, I didn’t really get that much from it, but when I went this year I learned more opportunities I didn’t know existed, more science and engineering things.”

Richardson said she particularly enjoyed the conference’s computer engineering classes.

“I like working with computers. I never really liked math that much, but I like it better now,” she said. “I have like six different computers at home that I work with a lot, and my parents think I should be in computer engineering and making websites.”

Pratt said she always enjoys attending the annual conference.

“It’s one of the highlights of my school year. I love taking a group of girls to this conference,” she said. “As sixth-graders, the whole conference idea is new and having them choose breakout sessions is a new environment for them, and something a little mature for them, but they always come back enthusiastic about the day and the experience they had.”