PENINSULA, Ohio — This past Thursday, a group of Girl Scouts used garden trowels to break ground on where the new STEM Center of Excellence will stand.
"It's absolutely transformational for Girl Scouts," Jane Christyson, CEO of the Girl Scouts of Northeast Ohio, stated.
It is truly a groundbreaking idea. Within a year, the STEM Center of Excellence will be built here at Camp Ledgewood in Peninsula. Among the speeches and proclamations, a drone provided a bird's eye view, and a robot dog played part of the ceremony. Fittingly, the scouts themselves took the first step in building the center.
"They got a chance to dig the first bits of Earth, interact with the robot dog, and see that drone outline the shape of the building so they could really get a picture in their mind of how big it will be," Christyson said.
It's not just an 8,000-square-foot building, but a campus within the boundaries of Cuyahoga Valley National Park, which inspired the theme of the building: biomimicry.
"Biomimicry is when you look at nature and you're inspired by nature to take on technological problems and solve them," Christyson explained, "because nature is the best engineer."
The STEM Center with house a wet lab, workshops for prototyping and inventing, a podcast booth, an observatory, and a weather station. Outside, there is even more.
"All on the roof, we'll have wonderful exhibits of solar and wind power that will help kids learn about renewable energy," said Christyson.
That includes a solar flower, which will open in the morning, track the sun, and close at night.
Overall, the $7 million project is focused on getting more girls curious and confident about STEM.
"Whatever we can do to bring and spark that interest alive again, I'm all about it," U.S. Rep. Emilia Sykes of Ohio’s 13th District told us.
The idea for the STEM Center came from a desire to see more women in STEM careers, a problem Sykes sees on a national level.
"We see fewer engineers who are women, we see fewer pilots, we see fewer doctors, we see fewer scientists," the congresswoman said. "And because of that, we are missing out on having a perspective that is impactful to every part of the population."
Christyson cited a concerning statistic: 27% of girls in elementary school don't believe they are smart enough for their dream job. She hopes the STEM Center of Excellence will change that perception for the thousands of Girl Scouts in our area.
"We think facilities like this and activities like this will give girls an opportunity to really show what they can do," she added.
The STEM Center of Excellence will not only benefit Girl Scouts, but during the school year it will be opened to the community to inspire even more students to explore STEM careers.