Blog | March 9, 2020

STEM Like a Girl Annual Event Has Strong Impact on Middle-School Girls in Texas

Annual event encourages female students to explore work in STEM fields

Nestled in the piney woods of East Texas, the Discovery Science Place (DSP), located in Tyler, hosted its fourth annual “STEM Like a Girl” event. Each year, DSP partners with the local chapter of American Association of University Women and the Society of Women Engineers to give local, female middle-school students the opportunity to work on projects together with women in the community who work in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

The disruptive economies of the 21st century, the age of acceleration, are requiring vision that is generated by hands-on imagination.

Each year, over 50 female students participate in this event, giving them the opportunity to learn more about what it’s like to be an engineer, a software developer, a biologist, a mathematician, and more. The event not only allows the students to work on brain-teaser type projects with a focus on STEM, but it also allows the students to visit with the local female STEM professionals to get a better idea about different career opportunities available in the STEM field. The Executive Director of DSP, Chris Rasure, stated, “The event has grown in popularity so much that we consistently fill our available registration slots and often have a waiting list of girls who would like to attend.”

In addition to the in-house events such as STEM Like a Girl, DSP also works hand-in-hand with local schools in a variety of ways, such as field trip visits to DSP and outreach program visits to the area school campuses. DSP also hosts camps during the summer. “As a former middle-school science teacher in the local school districts, I understand the value of a partnership between both formal education in the classroom and informal education in the museum or other setting,” Chris explained.


Events and programs like STEM Like a Girl help set participants on a path toward “deeper learning,” skills such as collaboration and problem-solving that are coupled with practical, hands-on experiences that help students prepare to be a part of the workforce of tomorrow.

There are many other advantages of participating in STEM Like a Girl, such as building confidence, as one participant noted. When asked about the advantage of this event, she stated “The event provides awareness that girls can do anything a man can do. ”

With a great deal of positive feedback from the students, including comments like, I think my favorite part of the event was learning about the variety of jobs in STEM that I could pursue in the future,“ this annual event will continue to benefit female middle-school students for years to come.

Phil Burks, who is a member of ReadyNation and the CEO of the Tyler-based tech company Genesis Group, is also a former board member and financial supporter of DSP. Phil is a strong supporter of the STEM Like a Girl event and the other programs at DSP. “DSP does a phenomenal job of exciting young minds to think past ordinary,” he explained. "The disruptive economies of the 21st century, the age of acceleration, are requiring vision that is generated by hands-on imagination.”


“When it comes to finding quality candidates to fill job openings, local universities have done a great job listening to what we need and have tuned their curriculum to help fill that gap. But that only goes so far. We need education to start younger so they graduate college with more than grades. We need experience,” he added.

Only a few blocks away from DSP is Tyler Innovation Pipeline (TIP) that Phil helped found. TIP is a permanent, membership-based maker space where STEM ideas can come to life. TIP is also a “Code Like A Girl” affiliate. Girls meet on a regular basis to exercise their coding knowledge and expand it into robotics and other STEM activities.

With the strong economy in Texas and the increased number of STEM-related jobs, attracting students to the STEM field at a young age is a huge part of being able to fill these future jobs. The partnerships connecting DSP, local schools and their students, and local employers, is a model that other communities in Texas and throughout the United States should adopt.

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