Our first Women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) Symposium was held on Saturday, November 5th and was a great success!

20 high school girls attended with their eyes and ears focused on learning from an amazing panel of speakers and expo vendors.

Dr. Ahna Skop gave the opening Keynote address, “Too creative for science?” and encouraged attendees to think outside the dichotomies of science and art and instead use creative thinking to bridge the gap of how science is perceived in the public eye.

Allison Salmon shared her experience as a video game developer, and how she fell into a career in software engineering after graduating as a computer science major.

Dr. Erika Marín-Spiotta challenged the way we think about the earth sciences – as a global system between people and places that can help us understand how to shape our future.

Erica Naughton shared her experience as a creative, jumping into the world of web development and graphic design through enrolling in YWeb Career Academy, a program that provides opportunities to women, people of color and others who are underrepresented in the tech industry.

Dr. Mary Fitzpatrick closed the panel by inspiring us to think differently and engage with others who have diverse ideas and perspectives to create better working teams that can inspire innovations and solutions for complicated problems.

Our lunch break offered time for students and speakers to break into smaller groups and continue conversations that were prompted by questions asked during the panel. There was even a deep in-depth discussion about Star Trek that happened!

In the afternoon, attendees explored the museum exhibits – they wondered about lasers, traveled through our hallway timelines, looked at the world from perspectives large and small in the imaging exhibit, and more.

We also had representatives at Expo stations from Epic, Four Lakes Wildlife Center, Filament Games, Creative Kingdoms, and Population Diagnostics who shared about their work and helped to inspire future careers in STEM fields.


To learn more about opportunities for women in STEM, check out the following links:
White House – Women in STEM
Women in NASA
Ada Lovelace Day
Engineering Challenges
Engineer Girl
Girls Who Code


Posted by Mariel Mohns


77f47b20-a350-4c2b-af77-889d80b0d555Get to know one of our volunteers! Sean has been hard at work doing carpentry and construction projects for our exhibits. Our science communication volunteer, Mariel Mohns, had a chance to sit down and interview Sean about his work.


MM: Thanks for taking the time to meet! To start off, what is your background – what do you do for a living?
SS: I’m a remodeling carpenter and project manager, so I do a lot of high end custom building.


MM: And that makes sense given what you’ve been doing for the museum. Can you describe some of the projects you’ve been working on?
SS: I started out working on little odds and ends – it doesn’t seem like a lot since it’s only a few hours of work at a time – but the big thing we just finished was building a curved wall to hide the kitchenette. Next I’ll be working on building a cabinet for the Periodic Table of Motion. I also helped build the box for the Infinity Mirror, which has since been passed on to someone else to complete.


MM: Can you tell us a little bit about the Periodic Table of Motion and the process of tackling a project like that?
SS: Sure. It’s similar to the Periodic Table of Elements, but with the idea of motion being made up of simple machine parts: block & tackle, gears, motors, etc. So each 9x9in box will have different assembly parts which will have a conductive switch so that kids (or adult-kids-at-heart!) can touch and interact with to illustrate simple movement.


MM: That’s awesome! I think the interactive exhibits we have will be really unique for learning and inspiring. How did you first get involved with volunteering for MSM?
SS: Well, I’m a member at Sector67, and they put out a call for help during one of the first volunteer working days. I showed up with my tools and realized that they could use help in my area of expertise. There’s a group of people from Sector67 that are also involved, Chris Meyer (the director of Sector67) has been a big contributor in coordinating and doing work for the museum.


MM: That definitely recapitulates the collaborative efforts in working on these types of projects for the museum. Are there any exhibits that your are most looking forward to seeing?
SS: I helped a bit with setting up the space for the first artist (Floor van de velde) – mounting projectors and such – but didn’t get a chance to see the final installation, so I’m curious to see all of those elements come to life together. I know a little bit about the other projects to know that the museum will be a neat space, and that’s why I’ve been happy to help volunteer my time.


MM: I agree. It will definitely be a great space with a lot to explore. Why do you think a science museum is important for Madison/Wisconsin?
SS: I think it’s important for people to recognize the value of science, and the fact the we live in a culture surrounded by technology, it’s easy to dismiss as something that’s only relevant for a small niche group of people. I think it’s potentially dangerous, especially politically, to undermine the importance of research and innovation. I think it will also hopefully be a different audience than say, the Children’s Museum, where I loved taking my daughter when she was a kid, but now she’s 15. So the Science Museum offers something similar but for a different crowd – as a place for parents and adults, but also a place to bring families and kids to learn something new.


MM: Exactly. Science is something that is applicable for everyone at every age. We all use science in one way or another in our daily lives. Despite not being a scientist, do you have a favorite scientific fact or concept?
SS: That’s a tough question! Maybe the fact that the majority of what we’re made out of is water. It’s a simple idea, but it’s something to appreciate more and more as water becomes more expensive and scarce. Water is something that we often take for granted how valuable it is.


MM: Good answer! Thanks so much for taking the time to chat and for all your hard work with the museum! 
SS: Sure. Thanks for doing what you do, too. It’s great to have the collaborative effort for all the different working parts of the museum.
Posted by Mariel Mohns

Welcome to the WSM blog!

Welcome to the Wisconsin Science Museum blog. This space will be updated with posts that dive deeper into the scientific topics featured in our exhibit space, feature behind-the-scenes updates for museum happenings, and hopefully inspire you to discover, wonder, and connect with the science and technology around us.

Join us as we continue to explore the rich history of scientific discovery in Madison and Wisconsin!

Posted by Mariel Mohns