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Women in STEM Driving Innovation at Illinois Tech

Written By: Chelsea Nguyen

The Illinois Tech EcoCAR team took the opportunity to attend and speak at the STEM Math and Science Conference for 5th Grade Girls sponsored by the Palos-Orland Area Branch, Chemical Industry Council of Illinois, and Moraine Valley Community College. Since 2007, this conference has brought together 5th-grade girls and their parents. Students engage in three hands-on group presentations and activities led by women excelling in STEM careers. Meanwhile, parents, guardians, and educators participate in sessions focused on guiding their daughters and students in exploring STEM concepts and careers. The overarching motto of the conference was Girls + Math + Science = Success. 

Faith Busche, Nadia Netolicky, and Chelsea Nguyen, three leaders from the Illinois Tech EcoCAR team, took charge of the opening presentation at the conference, aiming to inspire attendees interested in exploring STEM. Chelsea Nguyen, the Communications Manager, welcomed everyone to the conference and introduced EcoCAR with its mission and goals. Nguyen then introduced the topic of why women in STEM are important: representation and diversity. Representation encourages women to pursue STEM, reduces the gender gap and roles, and inspires future generations to come. Diversity drives innovation through new perspectives, experiences and skills, and multidisciplinary collaboration. Following this, Faith Busche, the Connected and Autonomous Vehicle Lead, shared her firsthand experiences as a woman in STEM. Busche emphasized the crucial role that STEM role models play. She shared that she found motivation to remain in the male-dominated field of computer science through the encouragement of her teacher. She underscored the significance of encouragement, emphasizing its transformative impact in making a difference and helping individuals recognize their qualifications within the field. Busche passed the mic to Nadia Netolicky, Equity and Mobility Lead. As a young girl, Netolicky utilized her curiosity to expand her interests. She now urged students to cultivate their curiosity and engage in a variety of activities, expressing that through exploration, they can discover their passions. The heartfelt testimonies from both Busche and Netolicky genuinely inspired the students and parents in the room.

After the testimonies, Nguyen wrapped up the presentation with advice to students, parents, guardians, and educators on examples of getting involved along with resources for women and youth in STEM. Resources included organizations that promote women in STEM, websites that promote STEM learning, STEM camps and events, and free dates and museums. Illinois Tech EcoCAR hopes to continue reaching out to youth interested in STEM, especially young women in STEM. To learn more about resources for youth and women in STEM, go to Illinois Tech EcoCAR’s STEM Resource page.