Girls doing a tower building challenge

The Central Oregon STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) Hub and Better Together brought guest speakers, Jamie McMillan and Pat Williams, to 5 area middle schools to share their message about women in STEM, skilled trades, and building careers. Over the course of two days, Jamie and Pat visited Obsidian Middle School, Elton Gregory Middle School, Culver Middle School, Warm Springs K-8 Academy, and High Desert Middle school to speak with approximately 400 7th and 8th graders (mostly girls). Even though most students weren’t familiar with what skilled trades are, when the speakers asked questions like: “do you like to work with your hands?” “Play sports?” “Help out around the house?” most of the girls responded with enthusiastic raised hands. “If you raised your hand for any of those, you could do a skilled trade,” McMillan said to the groups.

Participants were invited to participate in a tower building challenge as part of the presentation. Groups of 8-10 students armed with a newspaper and a baggie filled with straws, pipe cleaners, Popsicle sticks, paper clips and masking tape competed in a race again the clock to build the tallest free-standing tower. Jamie and Pat encouraged groups to think about the strength of their materials and ideas about structural design. Some towers didn’t quite stand as tall or strong as expected, but each of the teams succeeded in working together, problem solving, and thinking critically.

Do you have ideas about how and where the STEM Hub can partner to bring more opportunities for out-of-the-ordinary learning through STEM to our communities? Send your ideas to