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Launching young women into technology fields

Macie Barth enjoyed the flight simulator at the Launched Women in Tech Conference at Launch Fishers. (photo provided)

FISHERS (Inside INdiana Business) — Macie Barth, a seventh-grader from Carmel, spent Tuesday night at co-working space Launch Fishers with nearly 150 young women from central Indiana middle schools.

They were there to explore opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math.

“I wanted to learn about the different things that women can go into with STEM,” said the middle school student. “I just really wanted to figure out everything that I could do, and all the possibilities I’d be able to have.”

Those possibilities were showcased at the third annual Launched Women in Technology Conference hosted by Indiana University and IU First Lady Laurie Burns McRobbie.

“It’s crucial to reach girls at this stage of life with both the ability to learn about technologies, new products, cool new advances and innovations and to get a sense that they are important to the future of Indiana’s workforce,” said McRobbie. “This is really a crucial age to do that.”

The conference gave young women from 6th, 7th and 8th grades a chance to explore and interact with tech products and tech professionals.

Indianapolis-based LYFT Academy brought a mobile flight simulator with virtual reality headsets, which Macie enjoyed. “I like how you could fly a plane.”

The students were also challenged to think through a problem and create a solution as a team.

“There’s a box of materials in the corner and they have to build a prototype and they do it in about 20 minutes,” explained McRobbie. “They’re getting hands-on with the whole idea of inventing something and maybe not working quite right and then having to talk about it.”

McRobbie says the conference sets the young woman down an exciting path.

“It excites me that they are here, it excites me that they’re talking to each other about what they’re learning. They’re curious. And that that is really, really encouraging.”

McRobbie holds an adjunct faculty position in IU’s Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering. She helped to establish the Indiana University Center of Excellence for Women and Technology (CEWiT), which seeks to create and improve academic and professional opportunities for women students, faculty, and staff working in or with technology.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business reporter Wes Mills, IU First Lady Laurie Burns McRobbie said it’s critical to steer young women towards STEM.