Every 26 seconds a student drops out of high school. This starting statistic was the impetus for Laine Powell, M.Ed., MSM to establish Tech Sassy Girlz (TSG). TSG was created in 2012 to change this unsettling fact and develop a pipeline for future women leaders in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. To date, the nonprofit organization has touched the lives of 700 middle and high school “girlz,” awarded nine scholarships and logged over 1,000 volunteer hours.

One of their signature outreach programs is the annual Tech Sassy Girlz Day Conference, which is scheduled for Saturday, October 21 from 10am – 4pm at the College of Engineering & Computer Science at the University of Central Florida (UCF). The conference was created to improve awareness of education, career opportunities and services for middle and high school girls by increasing participation, retention and advancement of girls and women in STEM.

Presented by Oracle Academy and powered by Ford, the 6th annual conference will provide hands-on fun tech demonstrations, engineering design challenges by NASA, a UCF campus tour, as well as the chance to network with women technology business leaders to learn more about STEM careers. It also includes a special session geared specifically for parents and a special Ford Tech Trek talk and vehicle immersion featuring the new 2018 Ford Mustang.

“Ford is proud to partner with Tech Sassy Girlz and the great work they do in inspiring young girls to Go Further in Tech, while also exploring the possibilities for their future in the world of STEM,” said Raj Register, Manager, Brand Strategy and Growth Audiences, Ford. “As an African American woman and engineer, I’m proud to be part of a life-changing program that not only mentors and motivates our youth, but encourages them to believe they can achieve their dreams.”

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According to national research, in 2018, 8 million STEM jobs will be available in the United States, but the vast majority of U.S. students will be unprepared to fill them. 51 percent of all STEM jobs are projected to be in computer science-related fields. The Federal government alone needs an additional 10,000 IT and cybersecurity professionals, and the private sector need many more. STEM fields are at the core of the nation’s innovation.

“I’ve always had the passion for working with students and the dream to empower young women to pursue STEM careers. Thus, I founded Tech Sassy Girlz in 2012 and the rest is history. Our programs are sparking interest in young girls that will open doors and expand their vision. We are cultivating the innovators, makers, entrepreneurs and pioneers of the future,” says Laine Powell, M.Ed., MSM, Tech Sassy Girlz Founder.

In 2015, research showed that only 22 percent of students taking the Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science exam were girls, and only 13 percent were African-American or Latino students. These statistics mirror the current makeup of some of America’s largest and more innovative tech firms, where women comprise less than one-third of their technical employees, and African-Americans less than 3 percent.

“Computer science and data science are not only important for the tech sector, but also for a growing number of industries, including transportation, healthcare, education, and financial services, that are using software to transform their products and services. In fact, more than two-thirds of all tech jobs are outside the tech sector,” says Powell. “It gives students opportunities to be producers and makers, not just consumers, in the digital economy, and to be active citizens in our technology-driven world,” she adds.

Computer science can help foster computational thinking skills that are relevant to many disciplines and careers, such as breaking a large problem into smaller ones, recognizing how new problems relate to ones that have already been solved, setting aside details of a problem that are less important, and identifying and refining the steps needed to reach a solution. Conferences and events that foster STEM by providing access to mentors and immersion are helping to inspire young girls. Tech Sassy Girlz empowers and encourages middle and high school girls to pursue STEM fields through college preparation, career readiness, and mentoring.

Featured conference speakers include:

Girlz Session

  • Luree Brown, Vehicle Operations Launch Engineer, Ford Motor Company
  • Toshie Chatman, Senior Customer Support Account Manager, SumTotal Systems
  • Tonya Farquharson, Acting CEO, Triad Isotopes
  • Najah Hines, Service Manager, Wells Fargo
  • Grace Johnson, Technical Project Manager, NASA
  • Joy Meares, Principal Technical Support Engineer, Oracle Corporation
  • Raina Yancey – Senior Technical Engineer, Oracle Corporation

Parents Session

  • Ken Falana – Principle Technical Support Engineer, Oracle Engineered Systems Support Engineering
  • Eric Hylick – Senior Technical Engineer, Oracle Corporation
  • Dr. Karemah Manselle, Associate Director, Student Financial Assistance, UCF
  • Candace Simmons, Work Program Consultant, Wells Fargo

The free conference is open to middle and high school girls and takes place from 10am – 4pm at UCF, with lunch included. To register and obtain more details, visit the events section of the website at www.techsassygirlz.org or email Khughes@techsassygirlz.org. Seating is limited so advanced registration is required.

Photo credit: facebook.com/TechSassyGirlz

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