One KO Middle Schooler is set on achieving gender equity in the science field. “I want young girls to be seen as scientists and not just as people who stay at home. We are capable of engineering and coding.” With her determination and intelligence, Alexa Prahl ’24 will undoubtedly achieve that and more after attending UConn’s Engineering SPARK Program which gives young women exposure to the different fields of engineering -- from biomedicine to coding -- this past summer.
One of the impediments to women entering the field is that they are not aware of female role models and pioneers in the industry. By not recognizing themselves in those positions, young women are less likely to pursue a career in the sciences. To change perceptions, the UConn program presented to the campers a series of women engineers who had a major impact on society and achieved remarkable feats, including Emily Warren Roebling who is considered the “first woman field engineer” as she saw out the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge. Rather than present the information in a dry lecture-based manner, Prahl said the information was imparted through engaging skits and one-person delivery with costumes and wigs.
Naturally curious, Prahl said she always had an interest in understanding how things work. “When I was playing games on my iPad, I would wonder how do people create the games? How do streetlights work? How many lines of code go into a line that we do every day? How does a computer mouse feel your finger click on it? I found out the reason that we can’t teleport is that you can’t transport people’s atoms,” Prahl said.
“Some technology can be dangerous if you use it for the wrong reasons, but I think if it’s used properly it’s good for the community,” Prahl said. For instance, Prahl shared a BioMed activity that she participated in that involved creating a prosthetic hand composed of a wood board, string, straws, and washers. Additionally, the campers visited a lab and saw how cells are grown so medicine can be tested first in the lab rather than on a person directly which could be potentially harmful she said.
Prahl believes in the value of hard work and knows that as the science lessons become more complex, she will need to put in additional time. “Math can get hard for me, but I push through it. I go to Wyverns Helping Wyverns when I have difficulty. They helped me with one problem that I had trouble with and later on, I was able to explain it to my friend. As I explained it to her, I could check my own understanding,” she said.
“You can be good if you work hard, and I hope that more women will enter the field of science and that it’s not just men. It would be great if we could balance that out,” Prahl said. Whatever the future holds for Prahl, we’re certain it’s an empowering one.