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Tesla looks to spark female interest in STEM careers in Nevada

Updated February 21, 2019 - 9:02 pm

A group of middle school girls jumped in the driver’s seat Thursday to get a firsthand look at emerging careers in the technology and engineering fields.

Twenty female students from Kenny Guinn Junior High took part in a daylong event at Tesla’s Southern Nevada retail center aimed at introducing girls to engineering.

The program is part of the Clark County School District’s Girls in Tech initiative, which hopes to get more girls interested in STEM-related career fields, an industry dominated by males, according to Snehal Bhakta, CCSD career and technical education lead.

“The goal is to expose our young female students to different opportunities that they may not be aware of,” Bhakta said. “Whether it’s related to engineering, technology, all those high-wage, in-demand careers that are available here in Southern Nevada.”

The Introducing Girls to Engineering event is also part of Tesla’s investment in education, as it is putting $37.5 million into K-12 education over five years. Tesla also has an apprenticeship program in which it recruits graduating Nevada high school seniors to work at its Northern Nevada gigafactory.

This year alone, CCSD has held over 20 events with the Girls in Tech program, which works with other companies like Aristocrat Gaming, Big in Digital and the National Center for Women and Information Technology, among others.

Thursday’s program was split into two phases — a tour of the maintenance area of Tesla’s retail center and a hands-on segment where the students learned about electricity and how to build a simple motor.

For seventh-grader Angelina Rivera, the program is just the starting point for a career path she’s already decided on. But she said events like these help keep her interest spiked.

Angelina is interested in a career in aviation, thanks to her mother taking her several times to Aviation Nation at Nellis Air Force Base and from gaining an appreciation for airplanes from traveling.

“I had always been interested in aviation, but I would totally go to college to get my bachelor’s degree in engineering (to go toward that),” Angelina said. “So that’s kind of why, because I grew up with planes and that kind of stuff and I love to travel.”

Angelina said she particularly enjoyed visiting the service staff because she likes to build things and they got to see how electric cars worked.

“We got to see what the components of the car were and how you make the battery work and that was probably the coolest part,” she said.

Angelina didn’t succeed at building her simple motor on her first attempt, but she was OK with that.

“If you get it right away it’s not as fun,” she said. “Figuring out what’s wrong is part of the fun.”

Although CCSD has made a large push of STEM-related activities districtwide, Bhakta said the Girls in Tech program was developed to help girls to feel more confident and not as intimidated to ask questions as they might be around boys.

Angelina agreed with that, saying some girls can be timid about asking questions when they’re around a mixed-gender group.

“I think it’s definitely an interesting approach to introducing us to these things,” she said.

Contact Mick Akers at makers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on Twitter

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