LAKE TWP.  Girl Scouts Service Troop 650 in Lake Township was recently awarded a $1,000 grant from FirstEnergy. The troop will use the money to support STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) initiatives and education.

It received the grant on Dec. 19 at the Girl Scouts of North East Ohio’s service center at 1010 Applegrove St. NW in North Canton. The troop is planning to invest the funds into an all-day event Feb. 23 designed to encourage girls to think like an engineer.

The event will include hands-on activities, interacting with female engineers and completing a take action project. It will center on the Girl Scout Journey "Think Like an Engineer," which is part of the national curriculum developed by Girl Scouts of the USA. The event will offer hands-on and age-appropriate experiences for girls as young as five.

"A Girl Scout Journey is a deeper dive into a subject than earning a badge," said Jane Christyson, CEO of Girl Scouts Northeast Ohio. "It is a larger perspective or a more in-depth look at a particular topic. The girls can earn badges while completing a Journey. Troops structure their year along a particular topic or journey and this year the Lake troop is giving their girls a snapshot of what it’s like working in a STEM career, particularly engineering."

A Girl Scout Journey is completed when a girl has earned the Journey awards, which includes creating a plan to solve a problem, putting a team in place and carrying out a take action project to create sustainable change.

During the event, the girls will interact with female engineers from the University of Mount Union while exploring engineering concepts such as prototype, innovation and brainstorming. Each half hour session includes an age-appropriate activity such as designing a water collection device, simple winch, emergency shelter and a seismic shake-up. There will also be time built in for girls to take the lead in designing, constructing and collaborating to complete a "Take Action" project.

"Free Little Libraries" will be established at local parks in Stark County and maintained by local Girl Scout troops. Then, at the end of the day, the girls will reflect on how their image of an engineer may have changed and they’ll review the concepts that were introduced. The act of the demystifying what it means to be a scientist, or an engineer and is an important part of motivating young women to enter STEM fields.

Girl Scout STEM programs place a strong emphasis on increasing girls’ interest in STEM, increasing girls’ confidence in their STEM-related abilities, introducing girls to STEM careers, and demonstrating what STEM professionals, such as engineers and scientists, do in their work and how they do it.

"The Girl Scouts embrace STEM outcomes because of the need for getting more women in that workforce. Right now, studies show that only 24 percent of the STEM workforce are women," Christyson said. "We know that if we can get the information to girls at an early age, it will help expose them to the STEM career fields and help them build confidence that they can work in those fields. We believe this is the right time and the right place to that. We’ve been looking at STEM as part of our curriculum for the past five years."

Christyson said there has always been an element of STEM in many of the badges the scouts earn, but the organization has "stepped up our game in the past five years."

"Nationally, we have made a pledge to encourage 2.5 million girls into the STEM pipeline by 2025. We’re trying to get curriculum out there for every age and in every community," Christyson said.

For more information about Girl Scouts of North East Ohio (GSNEO) and how to donate, join, or volunteer, visit gsneo.org. Girl Scouts of North East Ohio connects girls to a world of possibilities in a positive and inclusive, girl-led environment. Girls are inspired to discover their passions and empowered to reach their full potential through a proven leadership development program.

FirstEnergy offered grants up to $1,000 to applicants in communities served by FirstEnergy’s electric operating companies or in communities where the company has generating plants or does business. Grants totaling almost $70,000 fund projects that integrate STEM skills in a youth program and also focus on electricity and electricity production, while promoting collaborative and interdisciplinary teachings and learnings.