A world of opportunity

Mentoring program inspires girls to pursue STEM careers

Karen Christensen, a Raytheon engineer

Karen Christensen, a Raytheon engineer, oversees Jasmine Aguilar and Zcheecid Aguirre as they use a calibration machine to measure volume and density. The students participate in Raytheon’s Imagine Your STEM Future girls mentoring program, which is designed to teach young women the basics of engineering and encourages them to seek careers in science, technology, engineering and math

Around her house, 18-year-old Zcheecid (Ja-SEED) Aguirre is the go-to-girl to fix whatever breaks.

When her family recently installed light fixtures, for example, she was the one who repaired a loose circuit. And to do that, she used her newfound knowledge of electrical resistance – something she picked up from "Imagine Your STEM Future," a Raytheon-sponsored program at her school that pairs girls with experts in science, technology, engineering and math.

Aguirre, a senior at Desert View High School in Tucson, Arizona, is among more than 100 students now enrolled in the program, where projects include designing circuits, building propellers and even constructing a miniature solar house.

"Imagine Your STEM Future" is one of several ways Raytheon is working to get young women interested in science, technology, engineering and math, in the hope they will pursue a career in those fields. Earlier this year, the company sponsored DiscoverE "Girl Day," a series of events at Boys & Girls Clubs across the United States.

"Before this program, I thought I was an oddball because I liked math and science,” Aguirre said. “As a girl, I felt like I shouldn’t be interested in these things, but now I know there are many other girls like me. It gives me confidence to step out of my comfort zone and pursue a future in STEM.”

Four days a week, Raytheon and the Southern Arizona Research Science and Engineering Foundation bring hands-on projects to their classes. Led by a Raytheon female mentor, the girls explore, practice new science and engineering concepts and build self-confidence.

Kendall Loomis, manager of the Immersive Design Center at Raytheon Missile Systems

Kendall Loomis, manager of the Immersive Design Center at Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, Arizona, gives a tour of the center to students in the company’s math and science mentoring program. Students lead their own projects and take part in field trips and networking events that include guest speakers and other mentors.

“I have seen these students grow immensely,” said Nuris Finkenthal, a science teacher leading the STEM program at Desert View High School. “They think differently and approach challenges with critical thinking and innovative ideas, which many of them will carry through to college.”

Jasmine Aguilar, another student in the program, said it is teaching her about the value of collaboration.

“I started off with the perspective of doing projects independently, but I have learned how to collaborate with my peers and actually enjoy doing it,” she said.

Early on, Aguilar was interested in biochemistry and medicine, but she now plans to study chemical engineering at the University of Arizona.

“There’s a world of opportunity out there,” she said.

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Published On: 06/07/2016
Last Updated: 01/11/2018