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GERMANTOWN - On Friday, April 7, Germantown High School instructor Michelle Griffin-Wenzel took her ninth- and 10th-grade female students on a field trip that was out of the ordinary.

The group was invited to the Great Lakes Biomedical Conference at Country Springs Hotel to participate in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workshops — and in a larger sense — to help close the gender gap in STEM-related fields.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the percentage of females receiving STEM-related degrees/certificates in the United States has only increased 1.6 percent since 2010. In 2009-10, less than one-third (29.7 percent) of STEM-related degrees were awarded to females.

In the latest numbers available for 2014-15, that increased to only 31.3 percent.

"One of my goals is for the girls to gain exposure to STEM-related careers," Griffin-Wenzel said. "I want them to envision themselves capable of achieving a STEM-related career."

The group of nearly 25 girls recorded their own brain activity, used ultrasounds, and learned about internet privacy; a total of 70 girls from Homestead High School, Lakeshore Middle School and Germantown participated.

During the ultrasound workshop, led by GE Healthcare, the girls handled ultrasound scanners. The "Internet of Things" workshop taught them about online privacy and security, digital footprints and protecting their own information.

The "How my Brain Works" workshop, led by Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) faculty, allowed the girls to use wireless technology to record their brain activities while they did jumping jacks, listened to music and solved puzzles.

According to JoEllen Burdue, director of media relations at MSOE, the event was intended to help change the demographics of STEM fields.

"There is still a shortage of females in STEM-related fields, and this is another opportunity for us to help close the gender gap," Burdue said.

The girls were able to network with female leaders in STEM fields locally, which Griffin-Wenzel said was one of her favorite parts of the day.

"I want the girls to gain insight into how STEM-related topics are integrated into their lives," Griffin-Wenzel said. "I would like to see the girls develop a stronger sense of self through this experience. Women can provide diversification of perspectives in the STEM field. This can open the door for greater innovation and novel ideas."

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