Paige Creahan, 15, from St Peter’s College, right, shows Cloverlea School pupils, from left, Hope Fenn, 10, Isabella Poucher, 11, Torey Anderson, 11, Cassidy Dalziel, 11, Hollie-Jane Rowland, 11, how to control a robot named Mickey.
Two teens are working to get more primary school girls interested in careers in science, technology, engineering and maths.
Anna Skiffington and Jorika Bonkowska are members of the St Peter’s College robotics team SPC Bots and have this week planned a day to show off the subjects, collectively called STEM, to girls in years 5-8 at school.
Skiffington is a year 11 student and has been part of robotics teams since she was 10.
In Skiffington’s opening speech for the Girl Powered event, at Te Manawa on Tuesday, she described herself as a girly girl who felt conflicted about being into robotics.
“I can’t speak for the other girls in our robotics club, but I know that I personally had a difficult time with realising that you can like STEM and more typically feminine things at the same time.”
In her early years she dressed as a tomboy for robotics events because she felt she had to be what “a lady scientist looked like”.
Embracing femininity could be an obstacle for many girls when their interests lay in STEM.
Bonkowska, a Cost-Rican born British expat, said growing up with a mum who was an engineer meant she didn’t realise the stigma girls faced until she joined the St Peter’s robotics club.
“There were 48 guys and four girls across the entire team, junior and senior. Thankfully, that’s evened out over the years,” she said.
Bonkowska and Skiffington wondered why girls interested in STEM subjects didn’t persue them and found it was because of stereotypes about people in associated industries.
The workshops, in their third year, were about letting girls see STEM subjects and related careers were a viable option for them, Bonkowska said.
Stephan van Haren, a St Peter’s VEX Robotics teacher who started SPC Bots, helped Skiffington and Bonkowska run the event.
The pupils attending heard from and questioned STEM experts in various fields, before moving into activities.
Janet Van, the national manager for Kiwibots, the umbrella organisation for robotics clubs, said not every child at such events would end up being a scientist or engineer.
“The important thing is that we have tech-savvy kids, because in 10 years time the jobs that they are going to be getting don’t even exist yet.”