The Anchorage School District is working to get more girls interested in math and science careers.

The district partnered with the Girl Scouts of Alaska and ExxonMobil to host Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day.

Environmental engineer Sonia Laughland taught students cosmetics and chemical engineering go hand-in-hand during her science lesson on lip gloss.

“Most people when they think about engineering don't think about makeup. They think about oil and gas or Procter & Gamble manufacturing. But makeup gets manufactured as well,” Laughland explained.

She showed the girls how to take four simple ingredients—coconut oil, beeswax, shea butter and olive oil—and transform the liquids into a solid gloss.

The goal is to get girls considering STEM—science, technology, engineering and math—careers earlier in their education.

“If we don't learn them now when we're curious and interested in them we might not want to learn it later when we have kids of our own and we're busy with other things,” said Gruening eighth-grader Isabelle Garza.

Each of the six stations highlighted aspects of STEM in a fun way, from the fluid dynamics of lava lamps to the physics forces behind pressure changes.

Many of the female instructors are engineers themselves and Garza, 13, said it’s important to have those kinds of role models.

“If we learn from them we can see from their point of view instead of a guy's point of view because there are more guys in the field than there are women. So if we know what a woman feels like in her field then maybe we want to do what they want to do,” Garza said.

For Laughland, the day was about sharing her love of the engineering field and showing the students the wide array of job opportunities. Laughland said she started college as a psychology major because she didn’t have educational field trips like this when she was in grade school.

“I was the first engineer in my family and I didn't know what it meant. I didn't have engineering role models,” Laughland said. “But having somebody explain something like this to me or spend some time with me would have gotten me interested sooner.”

She said engaging girls now ensure their futures are full of STEM possibilities.

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