If you visited UCI this past Saturday, you would have noticed that the campus wasn’t in its usual barren and desolate state that it is in on weekends.
Sally Ride, America’s first female astronaut, held the Sally Ride Science Festival here at UCI’s Bren Events Center on Saturday, Nov. 20 for the first time.
The festival, which is primarily directed at girls in grades five through eight, drew hundreds of middle school girls along with their parents and educators for a festive day celebrating the wonderful world of science, mathematics and technology.
The festival was one in a series organized by Sally Ride Science, a company founded by Sally Ride in collaboration with her fellow women colleagues to support the large numbers of girls and young women who are, or might become, interested in science, math and technology.
The company organizes quality events, programs and workshops for girls in hopes to empower them, engage them and encourage their interests.
Throughout the event, numerous hands-on, innovating and creative science, math and technology-related Discovery Workshops such as ‘Sisterhood of the Genes” and “Breathing Life into Animated Characters” were presented by UCI faculty.
Both parents and teachers were also encouraged to participate in workshops designed to exemplify ways in which they can support their girls’ interests in science and math.
“I came here with my 12-year-old daughter, Gina, because I knew that it [the event] would encourage her dreams of becoming a zoo-biologist,” said Edward Dupree, a proud father from Northridge, Calif. “I’m hoping that a few inspirational words from Sally Ride would spark some kind of encouragement inside Gina to pursue her goals.”
In addition to live entertainment and lunch, students and parents were also encouraged to engage in a street fair full of fun and scientific demonstrations.
It also gave aspiring young scientists a chance to meet Ride and to hear her speak about her voyages to space.
The festival not only takes place to empower girls and young women to get involved in science- and math-oriented fields, but is also used to dispel myths associated within these fields.
In an exclusive interview with the New University, Ride expressed her reasons for developing this program for young people.
“Science is fun, almost like detective work,” Ride said. “It’s also creative and collaborative. Scientists are not people alone in rooms with no windows and no doors for that matter. Scientists don’t have to look like geeky, old men like Einstein. They don’t have to be creepy, old white guys in white lab coats either.”
Although Ride did not face gender inequality while attending Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., she has known associates who have faced discrimination simply because they were women working in a male-dominated field.
“I seem to be one of the lucky ones who kind of weaved my way past that,” Ride said. “But in general, I think society as a whole has been more receptive to educated and accomplished women now than it has been in the past.”
With these experiences available for the girls at the festival, it is also Ride’s intention to “introduce these young women to female role models and to put on events and programs in which they can participate with their friends in the hope that they see there are many other girls out there who share similar interests.”
When asked whether or not these participants would have other opportunities to get involved with other related programs, Ride asserted, “We are currently offering programs such as Sally Ride Science Camps, TOYchallenge, and the Sally Ride Science Club—a national Club created to keep middle school girls engaged in science adventures by connecting them to people, information and attitudes that will nurture their relationship with science. It’s key to build up their self-confidence through these programs.”
Moreover, the Festival not only promotes women’s empowerment, but also serves the purpose of building their self-confidence and relaying the message to young women everywhere to “Reach for the Stars!”