Nobel Prize Winner Inspires Local Students to Explore Careers in STEAM

More than over 500 Grade 7 and 8 Students Participated in First Virtual FemSteamPtbo Summit! 

Over 50 classes of grade 7 & 8 students from Kawartha Pine Ridge District and Peterborough, Victoria, Northumberland and Clarington Catholic School Boards attended the summit that promotes careers in Science, Technology & Trades, Engineering, Arts and Math, amounting to over 500 students. FemSteamPtbo led the summit, hosted by Trent University and in partnership with the Innovation Cluster and Fleming College, which took place on Monday, November 2 from 9:30 am – 11:30 am over Zoom. Dr. Donna Strickland, Nobel Prize winner, was the keynote speaker. 

Established in 2019 with a mission to build community awareness and improve female representation in STEAM and skilled trades. Believing that “if you can see me, you can be me”, FemSteamPtbo hosts an annual summit, offers role models and mentors as classroom speakers, and hosts a monthly Mentors Live webcast, where women in STEAM can share their stories. Teachers can visit to see the list of mentors, request a speaker for their class, and view the webcast schedule.

“It is so very important to expose students to STEAM fields early on and support further learning opportunities in the community,” notes Michael Skinner, CEO of the Innovation Cluster. “Events like these ones empower young women to take charge of their own futures and recognize their potential.” 

Following opening remarks made by FemSteamPtbo founders Sofie Andreou, Rhonda Barnet and Dawn Hennessey, and a statement by MP Maryam Monsef, Minister for Women and Gender Equality, students entered Zoom breakout rooms, which divided students into smaller groups to be paired with a mentor (Trent University and Fleming College students and graduates) from the community to interact and ask questions. 

“Canada is better when there are more women and girls actively involved in fields that include math, technology, trades and science,” Maryam Monsef said in her opening statement.

The mentors are six women in the Peterborough area who have joined FemSteamPtbo to make up its new mentorship program. As of today, Peterborough teachers can request a mentor for educational opportunities through the website as well as join the FemSteamPtbo Mentor Live Webcast once a month. The mentors were introduced in the summit and participated in the breakout rooms, including answering questions and sharing their story during the event.

The mentors are:

Robin Adamson-Agostino – Pre-Apprenticeship Carpentry Student at Fleming College

Stephanie Johnson – Recent M.Sc. Graduate in Applied Modelling and Quantitative Methods from Trent University

Sandra Klemet-N’Guessan – Ph.D. Student in Aquatic Ecology at Trent University

Elysha Pecena – Environmental Engineering Technician at Cambium Inc. B.Eng. in Environmental Engineering from Carleton University 

Robyn Stout – Instrumentation and Control Engineering Technician Student at Fleming College

Jamee Ward – Pre-Apprenticeship Carpentry Student at Fleming College

Following the breakout rooms, FemSteamPtbo held a fireside chat and introduced keynote speaker Dr. Donna Strickland. Strickland is a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Waterloo and is one of the recipients of the Nobel Prize in Physics 2018. Dr. Strickland is the 3rd woman and 2nd Canadian to ever win the prestigious award. Strickland spoke about why she entered a career in STEAM and provided inspiration to the students listening.

“Don’t let anyone else tell you what you’re good at. Only you know what you’re good at,” said Dr. Strickland.

A Q&A session followed for the students, led by Rhonda Barnett and Dr. Cathy Bruce of Trent University.

“We would like to thank both the women who have volunteered to be a part of our mentorship resource and the Peterborough community who are supporting our students,” says Sofie Andreou, FemSteamPtbo Co-Founder. “Each and every one of you play a critical role in encouraging our youth. We have seen the impact in other countries, that being to strengthen our economy by increasing the number of girls enrolling into STEAM careers.”

The event concluded with an announcement for the first annual FemSteam competition, titled “What Does FemSteam Mean To YOU!?” and the announcement of more virtual events to come. The group is asking students in grade 7 & 8 to record a video explaining what FemSteam means to them, with a chance of being one of ten girls chosen to win a prize package that includes a 2 Day Hands-On Workshop STEAM project at the Endeavour Centre, and 3 STEAM Experiential Monthly Packages by Servo Socks kids stem projects.

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