PLAINVILLE – Girls from the greater Hartford area will be able to make and launch their own rockets, use laser technology to map a planet and program a robot as part of the “Soar to the Stars” during a science experience offered by the Petit Family Foundation and the Space Foundation Oct. 27.
The goal is to get, and keep, middle school and high school aged girls interested in STEM, science, technology, engineering and math, said Dr. William Petit, now a state representative representing Plainville. “The dividing point for girls and science seems to be junior high school, and then you lose them,” Petit said. “If you can hook them in, maybe you can keep them.”
The day-long event called “Soar to the Stars” will take place at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford. About 200 girls from around the area, including New Britain, Plainville, Berlin, Southington and Bristol, are welcome to attend to have a valuable STEM experience through the wonder of space. Admission is free but registration is required at Soartothestars.org. A STEM experience will also be provided for 50 teachers, of any subject matter, who are interested in honing their skills, said Space Foundation Vice President of Education Bryan DeBates.
“We’ll be able to carry on that effort after we leave by staying in touch with the teachers throughout the year,” DeBates said.
The Space Foundation provides all types of space-related learning activities throughout the country. The Petit Family Foundation seeks to support girls in the sciences as part of their mission in honoring Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11, who died during a tragic home invasion in 2007. Petit was badly beaten during the attack but survived. The foundation was formed as a tribute to the women and their passions by supporting the education of young people, especially women in the sciences, improving the lives of those affected by chronic illnesses and to support efforts to help those affected by violence.
The day will kick off with breakfast and four STEM experience programs that allow girls to build and launch a straw rocket, learn how to program and drive a robot, use laser technology to map a planet and create a sculpture that lights up and moves by using motors, lights and batteries, DeBates said.
“We use space as the hook to get kids excited about STEM,” DeBates said. “Girls have very low representation in STEM fields,” DeBates added. “By working with the Petit Foundation, we’ll reach out to girls who have never had a STEM experience.”
The event will include a Women in Science Panel with professional women who are in STEM fields. A luncheon compliments of the Petit Family Foundation will feature guest speaker former NASA astronaut Paul Lockhart.
“It important to get the girls excited and like Dr. Petit said, wanting to continue,” DeBates said. “If we can light that spark and keep it going, that’s the goal.
Lisa Backus can be reached at 860-801-5066 or Lbackus@centralctcommunications.com.