On Saturday, March 17, 2018, Kennett Square’s Women in Nuclear (WIN), chapter devoted their afternoon to the Chester County Economic Development Council’s “Girls Exploring Tomorrow’s Technology” (GETT) event, which attracted more than 1,000 young women in grades 5-10 from the Philadelphia suburbs who are interested in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) careers.
“We offered a brief glimpse into how nuclear energy becomes electricity, the technology associated with it and the variety of jobs available at the plant,” said Kirsten Pfingsten, one of the event leads and a Boiling Water Reactor (BWR) Fuel Cycle Manager at Kennett Square. “Overall, we spoke directly with more than 300 girls interested in learning more about nuclear energy.”
The group of eight WIN members included representatives from Engineering, License Renewal, Environmental and Information Technology (IT), which helped drive home the message to the girls – and their accompanying parents – that STEM jobs are not just for engineers.
“With so many parents also attending, we had a ‘two-for’ as we were able to educate both the students and their parents, dispelling myths and promoting clean energy,” said Pfingsten.
“For example, we brought virtual reality goggles to give the girls and their parents a 360-degree view of the inside of the Limerick cooling towers during an outage,” said Lauren Cheung, co-lead of the Kennett Square WIN Chapter and an Executive Assistant. “A common misconception from the public was that the cooling towers are the reactors. Many girls and parents put on the goggles and then asked where the nuclear fuel was, which gave us an opportunity to explain where the fuel is actually kept and what it looks like.”
The WIN volunteers also had Geiger counters set up and participants had to find a natural source of radiation hidden on the table. The group also displayed a mock fuel assembly and had a thermography camera to demonstrate proactive maintenance.
“The message that hit home the most was our lollipop giveaways,” said Pfingsten. “When we told the girls and their parents that a nuclear fuel pellet the size of this ‘dum dum’ could provide electricity for the average American for 84 years – essentially your entire life — you could just see the amazement and shock on their faces.”
Congratulations to all the volunteers on the successful event, including: Kirsten Pfingsten, BWR Fuel Cycle Manager; Preeti Furtado, Technical Manager; Christine Kinkead, IT Senior Manager; Ferheen Qureshi, BWR Fuel Cycle Manager; Megan Doerzbacher, BWR Fuel Cycle Manager; Nancy Ranek, Sr. Environmental Lead, Nuclear License Renewal; Lauren Cheung, Executive Assistant; and Alisa Otteni, Environmental Compliance Specialist.
Why is outreach to women about jobs in STEM-related fields so important?
“Women filled 47 percent of all U.S. jobs in 2015 but held only 24 percent of STEM jobs,” according to the U.S. Economics and Statistics Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Likewise, the same research found that “women constitute slightly more than half of college educated workers but make up only 25 percent of college educated STEM workers.”