Girl Scouts Get In Gear

New program with Pole Position Raceway sparks a love of STEM in young girls. (Kathryn Kiefer of Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri)

---“Girl Scouts, start your engines!” shouts a man standing on the side of a track. Teenage girls sit in high-powered electric go karts mere inches off the ground and grip the steering wheels of their vehicles. In their minds, the girls are preparing to compete against one another, zooming and zipping around the track. What they might not realize, however, is how the race they’re about to begin will help guide their future.

The Girls Academy of Racing Science is one of Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri’s most popular programs in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) areas, and invites girls to join Pole Position Raceway and Lindenwood University in learning about cutting-edge racing technology.

Scientists and engineers, who also happen to be racecar drivers, teach Girl Scouts about acceleration and deceleration, speed, mathematic formulas, engineering and, of course, racing. Girls go through four educational and hands-on stations before progressing to the raceway, where they don helmets and buckle up to put their newly learned STEM skills to the test. The girls then test their new skills in high-performance go karts on a quarter-mile racetrack, competing for the fastest lap time.

Dustin Gilliland, a mechanic at Pole Position Raceway, said the company was surprised to hear Girl Scouts were interested in participating in such a program, as most of its clientele are men. “So far we’ve had nothing but extremely attentive Girl Scouts,” he said. “We were even surprised to see that the Girl Scouts can be very competitive and aggressive out on the track, which is great. [Learning about STEM] just makes for better, more-well-rounded people. Girls who participate in the Girls Academy of Racing Science have a better understanding of their own car, and so many other aspects of day-to-day life.”

Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri has identified STEM as one of three main focus areas that girls will need to succeed in the future. Fostering a love of the STEM subject areas in young girls is crucial to creating a diverse population of future leaders. While women represent half of all college-educated American workers, they make up only 28 percent of the science and engineering fields. Recent studies have shown that when it comes to their success in math, men typically attribute it to their own ability, while women attribute it to luck or effort.

Abbey Keller, a junior at Lutheran South High School and Girl Scout Ambassador who is planning to pursue a career in prosthetic engineering, said programs like the Girls Academy of Raceway Science offer a chance for young women to do something they may not have been able to do before. “Fifty years ago, women couldn’t have jobs in STEM because they had to do work around the house,” she said. “Now that has really changed. Girls should be pushed to look at math and science more, because they’ll have fresh ideas and have more fun with it.”

Girl Scouts who are interested in participating in the next Girls Academy of Racing Science on Feb. 16 can register at girlscoutsem.org and click ‘Register Now,’ or call the Help Desk at 314.400.4600.