MTSU Math, Science Conference for Girls Becomes a Family Tradition

The recent Tennessee Girls in STEM math and science conference at MTSU has become a next-generation tradition for at least one Midstate family — all because a loving grandmother knows the value of education.

MTSU alumna LaShanda Moore of Antioch, Tennessee, saw her daughter, Heaven Moore, attend the Expanding Your Horizons in math and science conference in 2014. Eight years later, Moore’s granddaughters Kamareya and Tae’Yannah Moore participated along with nearly 170 other girls during the 26th annual event, now known as Tennessee Girls in STEM Conference.

Science, technology, engineering and math remain at the forefront of the event, where middle school and high school girls gain hands-on knowledge and advice from experts wanting them to consider careers in these fields.

“I’m really interested in education,” said LaShanda Moore, who graduated from MTSU as an older adult learner in 2014, majoring in criminal justice and minoring in mental health service after dropping out of college earlier. Heaven Moore earned her bachelor’s degree, LaShanda Moore’s other children are furthering their education and “GG,” as she is called, wants her nine grandchildren to do their best so they can attend college.

When Tennessee Girls in STEM Director Judith Iriarte-Gross learned Heaven Moore attended in 2014 and LaShanda Moore had registered her granddaughters for the conference, she asked if they would be group leaders. Both accepted.

LaShanda Moore worked with the “Physics Phun” group. Heaven Moore was part of the School of Concrete and Construction Management activity. She enjoyed it so much, she’s considering pursuing that as a degree.

“It was awesome,” LaShanda Moore said of the conference. “I learned a lot and my granddaughters couldn’t stop talking about it. … I’m going to find as many people as I can to come next year.”

Hands-on STEM activities spark excitement

MTSU Science Building classrooms and staging areas and the McWherter Learning Resources Center and other campus venues were full of energy and excitement Saturday, Sept. 24.

The girls built marble roller coasters, learned about “triggernometry” from Tennessee Bureau of Investigation firearms specialists Jasmine Johnson and Savannah Houk, explored “Physics Phun” with assistant professor Hanna Terletska and her physics students and discovered small animal veterinary nutrition with Kevin Ragland of the Tennessee STEM Education Center and moon buggies from College of Basic and Applied Sciences associate dean and engineering professor Saeed Foroudastan, just to name a few.

The girls heard from MTSU faculty, students and alumni mentors, plus others in private industry showing how to perform engineering strategy to make concrete coasters and build a structure using toothpicks and marshmallows in gelatin, drop eggs without breaking them, and more during their six hours on the college campus.

Girls came from Hendersonville, Nashville, Mt. Juliet, Smyrna, Murfreesboro and other local communities. Central Magnet and Discovery School in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Rutland Elementary in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, and Thurman Francis Arts Academy in Smyrna, Tennessee, were among the schools represented.

Hearing from experts

Guest speaker Barbara Turnage, the interim dean for the College of Behavioral and Health Sciences, gave an inspiring talk and fielded audience questions.

The high school girls heard from an outstanding panel from a variety of fields, featuring nurses Dara Dixon and Devin Martin of Vanderbilt Medical Center, nurse Amy Butler from Rocky Fork Elementary/Rutherford County Schools and Minden Bullock (nurse management) from Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital.

Dixon, who has volunteered for 19 years, Butler and Bullock are MTSU alumni.

The STEM conference was launched by Iriarte-Gross, a chemistry professor. Many students, faculty, staff, alumni and corporate partners volunteered to assist with the event.

Support and sponsorship came from Schneider Electric, Nissan, Texas Instruments, the MTSU College of Basic and Applied Sciences, Newell Brands, University College and the Nashville local section of the American Chemical Society.

Middle School girls build a marble roller coaster — one of the activities they and high school girls pursued during the 26th annual Tennessee Girls in STEM math and science conference at MTSU, held Sept. 24. MTSU freshman mechatronics engineering major Alexus Cox, right, of Maryville, Tenn., watches as Myla Smith, left, of Murfreesboro and a Blackman Middle School student, Tiffany Trader of Smyrna, Tenn., and Stewarts Creek Middle School and Chloe Johnston of Hendersonville and Hawkins Middle School make track adjustments. (MTSU photo by Cat Curtis Murphy)
Heaven Moore, left, Tae’Yannah Moore, LaShanda Moore, Tennessee Girls in STEM conference Director Judith Iriarte-Gross and Kamareya Moore pose for a photo during the recent Tennessee Girls in STEM math and science conference in the Science Building and other campus facilities. As a high school student, Heaven Moore attended the same event in 2014. She and LaShanda Moore were group leaders. (Submitted photo)
Kurt Hallquist, a mechanical engineer with Schneider Electric in Smyrna, Tenn., conducts a test on a marshmallow and gelatin activity a group of middle school students collaborated on during the 26th annual Tennessee Girls in STEM at MTSU math and science conference Saturday, Sept. 24. Watching to see if it passes are DeAri Gordon, 12, of Murfreesboro, Tenn., who is in the seventh grade at Tennessee National Virtual Academy, and workshop leader Natasha Quattro of Antioch, Tenn., an electrical engineer with Schneider Electric. (MTSU photo by Cat Curtis Murphy)
Sunny, a Dachshund owned by the Kevin Ragland family, takes his time sampling a variety of food, as middle school girls learn about pet nutrition during the 26th annual Tennessee Girls in STEM math and science conference at MTSU on Sept. 24. Middle school and high school girls learn about science, technology, engineering and math during the all-day event on campus. (MTSU photo by Cat Curtis Murphy)

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