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Students learn about career opportunities at 17th annual SMART Girls Summit

From left, Vanessa De La Cruz, Kyandra Dorleans, and Elibette Rodriguez learn more about seaweed during the Sensational Seaweed! workshop at the SMART Girls Summit at Girls Inc. of Lynn. (Spenser R. Hasak)

LYNN — Women are capable of anything and these middle school girls want the world to know it.

More than 125 girls from Lynn’s Pickering, Marshall, Breed middle schools, and KIPP Academy learned about the wide range of career opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) at Wednesday’s 17th annual SMART Girls Summit sponsored by Girls Inc. The girls explored activities where they played with seaweed, learned how to make a heart valve replacement, and tested their robot-making skills.

“Society doesn’t give much attention to women,” said Pickering eighth-grader Aida Bellal. “We’re just as important as anyone else.”

SMART, Girls Inc.’s Director of Middle and High School Programs Lena Crowley said, stands for science, mathematics, and relevant technology. The purpose of the annual summit is to expose Lynn’s young female students to the various careers in the STEM field.

“Back in the olden days, there were never events like this,” said KIPP eighth-grader Jasmine Castillo. “Girls like me, from the history that I’ve learned about in books, weren’t as educated in these areas and didn’t have the same opportunities that I do now.”

The fields of science and technology are constantly changing, according to STEM Coordinator Allee DeFronzo. Because of that, this year ‘s summit placed more emphasis on design, engineering, coding and environmental sustainability.

“I think learning about these things will help you in the future to solve problems and put together your own ideas,” said Pickering eighth-grader Christania Adeoye.

Leilani Eth from Breed, Maria De Los Santos from Marshall, Argelia Olivares from KIPP, and Adeoye were recipients of the SMART Girl Award. Marshall eighth-grader Felicia-Renee Perjuste, who designed the STEM logo for the T-shirts, and Breed eighth-grader Isabella Figueroa, who designed the logo on the event’s booklets, both won awards for their creative designs.

For the 11 student workshops, Girls Inc. partnered with Cambridge Science Festival, General Electric, Cell Signaling Technology, the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, Design Squad Global/ WGBH, Museum of Science Boston, Nasdaq, Northeastern University Marine Science Center, NOAA Fisheries, Beyond Benign, and Medtronic.

In one workshop, students learned how to program and read codes during a protein synthesis challenge and, in another, they combined art, technology and engineering to build robots that can draw out of recycled containers, markers, and a motor, and a battery pack.

On the topic of the importance of environmental sustainability, the girls participated in activities where they made their own “sneakers” out of resourceful materials and learned how to protect endangered marine animals.

Students also listened to a presentation on heart valve replacements before diving in to make their own, using a number of disposable materials. The activity used marbles to represent the blood going through the make-shift valve and cardboard boxes to represent the heart.

“Engineering is a lot of trial and error,” said Jessie Sacks, a research and design engineer at Medtronic, during her workshop. “Don’t be afraid to fail.”

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