Keystone Science School creates girls-only STEM program |

Keystone Science School creates girls-only STEM program

Alli Langley
The Keystone Science School will host roughly 70 girls on April 25 and encourage them to succeed in science, technology, engineering and math with the help of several female volunteers in various STEM careers who will act as role models and mentors.
Courtesy Keystone Science School |


What: An educational program for girls in grades 3-6 focused on science, technology, engineering and math through the Keystone Science School.

When: Saturday, April 25th, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Where: Keystone Science School campus, 1053 Soda Ridge Road, Keystone, CO 80435

How much: $20 per student. Lunch is provided. A generous sponsorship from Avout and support from the F. Cubed Foundation allowed Keystone Science School to reduce the cost of the program from $45.

For more information or to inquire about student scholarships, contact Megan Hollenbeck at or (970) 468-2098.

When Ali Hartley returns home to Summit County this month the 23-year-old engineer and Summit High School graduate will show a group of girls that they can succeed in science, technology, engineering and math.

The Summit County native works for a medical technology company in Colorado Springs, and she will encourage the girls at the Keystone Science School that they are equally as capable as boys and will inspire them to pursue careers like she has.

Hartley is one of the volunteers who will act as a mentor and role model in a new girls-only program put on by the nonprofit school called Girls in STEM.

The single-day program on Saturday, April 25, is open to roughly 70 girls in third through sixth grade and was the brainchild of Megan Hollenbeck, school programs instructor at the Keystone Science School.

“When you think of engineers you don’t usually think of women and you should. If you don’t know what’s out there it’s really hard to think, ‘Oh my god I want to do that when I grow up.’”Debra Mitchellretired teacher

Unlike some other programs the school offers, Girls in STEM won’t be limited to local or Colorado students — even girls visiting on vacation can participate — and students don’t need to be associated with a participating school or teacher.

Thanks to financial support from the technology company Avout and the molecular diagnostics company F Cubed, the Keystone Science School was able to reduce the cost of the program from $45 to $20 per student and offer a second day-program in the fall.

In classrooms girls often sit back and let boys lead, especially in science and math.

By creating an all-girls learning environment with successful female role models, Girls in STEM will encourage girls to ask questions, lead group activities, build confidence and cultivate new interests and passions.


Hollenbeck designed the program after talking with Summit County school principals and educators, including the STEM coordinator at Frisco Elementary, and determining there was a need to boost girls in the engineering part of STEM.

In a study released March 26, the American Association of University Women (AAUW) found that seven in eight engineers are men.

Founded in 1881, the nonprofit association promotes equity and education for women and girls. The association’s latest study also found that the portion of women in computer science has fallen from 35 percent in 1990 to 26 percent.

In fewer than 10 years, the U.S. will need 1.7 million more engineers and computing professionals, according to the AAUW, and the country can’t afford to ignore the perspectives or talent of half the population.

The association released an in-depth report in 2010 about why women are still missing in STEM fields. The report includes research that explains implicit biases that keep women from pursuing STEM careers as well as being hired and promoted in STEM.

When women are not involved in those fields, needs and desires unique to women may be overlooked.

For example, the 2010 AAUW report says, early voice recognition software did not hear women’s voices, and first-generation airbags were designed for male bodies and resulted in avoidable deaths for women and children.

The opportunity to pursue a STEM career is also a matter of pay equity.

Although women still earn less than men earn in STEM fields, as they do in the overall workforce, women in STEM tend to earn more than women earn in other sectors of the workforce.


Hollenbeck has taught middle school science and said harmful gender stereotypes persist even when teachers try to create and promote a gender-neutral classroom environment.

The Girls in STEM day will combat those stereotypes with teambuilding exercises and hands-on engineering projects. Keystone Science School staff and volunteers will lead students in reflections on female motivation and leadership in the STEM fields.

Hollenbeck said she wants to encourage the girls to visualize themselves as engineers, chemists and graduate students in math and computer science.

Hollenbeck partnered with retired teacher Debra Mitchell, who spent the last 21 of her 31 years teaching in Summit County elementary schools.

“When you think of engineers you don’t usually think of women and you should,” said Mitchell, who was Hollenbeck’s fifth-grade teacher at Breckenridge Elementary.

“If you don’t know what’s out there it’s really hard to think, ‘Oh my god I want to do that when I grow up,’” she said.

Hartley, who now works for the company Spectranetics in research and development, studied biomedical and mechanical engineering at Duke University.

She said she benefited from the mentorship of many women throughout her formal education, including Summit High School math teacher Jen Arias and science teacher Christy Reiking.

Hartley said she hopes to help expose the girls to a wide variety of opportunities in STEM, including coding and robotics, and show them why they might enjoy jobs that involve those pursuits.

“When you get interested in it early that really helps,” Hartley said. “You’ll just be able to get a better focus.”

Hartley said increasing women’s representation in STEM fields will require supportive communities, including helpful and encouraging families, schools and job environments.

Hollenbeck said she has seven women in various STEM fields who will volunteer on the day of the program, and she is still recruiting more.

For more information or to register as a volunteer, visit or contact Megan Hollenbeck at or (970) 468-2098.

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