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Elevating Girls in STEM: How GLEAM Connects Learning with Local Industry

Shannon Albert, an educator for almost 35 years, has a background in STEM. With a goal to “have a safe space to explore subjects and topics where girls are historically underrepresented,” she began GLEAM, a Girls in Manufacturing and STEM Club. The program has become a collaboration between the school, community, and local manufacturers.

Three students sit at a classroom table, smiling with their hands together on a bot.

Shannon was inspired by her own experiences and wanted to introduce more girls to manufacturing and STEM. She initially received funding from Dream It. Do It. and now, her GLEAM club serves 20 girls in grades 5-8 who meet once a week with the help of one or two club alumni each year.

GLEAM lessons and field trips are based on requests from local manufacturers. Shannon said:

I touch base with local manufacturers as much as possible to determine skills that employees are looking for. Team Building is always something that manufacturers ask for, so I try to include that whenever possible.  Other lessons center around design, coding, robotics, electronics, CAD, chemistry, 3D printing, and problem-solving. I try to provide a worthwhile lesson that provides a broad overview of the topic and is presented in a fun way.

By incorporating such a variety of topics, Shannon hopes students will discover what they have talents for. She stays in touch with parents and provides schedules, forms, and updates through a Facebook group. She also hosts an annual STEAM Night showcase, which is coming up at the end of January!

In June, the RTF donated Cue robots to GLEAM. These robots allow students to transition from block-based programming to more advanced text-based programming. Now that the girls have learned how to program them, they will be choreographing them to dance. Shannon sent over some of her schedules to give an idea of the other GLEAM workshops for the year. They included:

Wiring model houses

DIDI 500 miniature race cars and races

3D printing ornaments

Dash robot bowling

Virtual reality

Electromagnetic motors

Robotic surgery speaker

Building portable desks – a virtual lesson for February break

Building a fortress and testing its strength with Spheros (as seen in video)

Shannon plans to continue the after-school programs long-term. With such a successful middle school program, she would love to create a high school program. GLEAM has seen a ton of parental, community, and district support, which is a fantastic indicator of longevity and success. 

Shannon reflected, “I am working with several other educators in our STEAM room during the school day to help pass ideas on to the next generation of educators, and at some point, in the next 5-10 years, I hope these younger educators will take over and put their own spin on these already proved programs.” 

Four students hold a bot, smiling while sitting in a circle. They appear in a classroom full of various STEM equipment.

GLEAM has become so popular that interest in the club spawned a new co-ed group that meets separately. Building on this momentum, Shannon hopes to create a third group soon!

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