Cheryl Carrico is a leader in bringing STEM education to southwest Virginia
Cheryl Carrico originated the idea for the STEM Conference for Girls in Southwest Virginia.
When Carrico moved to the region, she quickly realized that she had not met many female engineers. She wondered if this was due, in part, to girls not knowing enough about engineering and not having exposure to women engineers. She felt strongly that if exposure to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) careers was increased, more girls might pursue careers in STEM fields.
She learned that many other people shared her desire to promote STEM. Carrico shared her concerns and ideas with Rachel Fowlkes, executive director of the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center; Penny McCallum, director of Virginia Tech’s Southwest Center in Abingdon; and other women leaders in the area. A core team was formed and within a year – in 2006 – the first STEM Conference for Sixth Grade Girls was hosted in Abingdon.
For the past five years, more than 700 sixth grade girls have attended the conference each year. Hundreds of volunteers have devoted their time and labor to make this educational event take place. The original STEM planning board, formed in 2005, is still working together to make each year more exciting and productive.
In addition to the conference, other opportunities have emerged to promote STEM for all students in Southwest Virginia. Carrico plays a leading role in the annual Lego League tournaments, serving as a head judge, and she is looking forward to the next level of First Robotic competitions.
“As a Ph.D. student in engineering education, I plan to improve my knowledge on ways to promote STEM and, in particular, engineering careers to students in Southwest Virginia,” Carrico says. “It’s important for students to know about the variety of careers available to them, to help them determine their true interests, and to encourage them in their career choice. Engineering is an exciting, creative and changing field. I have wondered what I would do if not engineering, had I not had others suggest I pursue engineering. I cannot imagine doing anything else.”
Currently an engineer with General Dynamics in Marion, Va., Carrico is completing her Ph.D. in engineering education through Virginia Tech, where she received a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering in 1987. She earned her master of engineering degree at North Carolina State University in mechanics of composites and is a licensed professional engineer.
Carrico worked in the aerospace industry for more than 20 years, supporting aircraft repairs, fleet training, and design and fabrication of nonmetallic components and composite parts.
“Cheryl has opened so many windows and doors, not only for young females but for educators and educational leaders throughout the region,” says Penny McCallum. “She is a bank of knowledge and ideas and is always ready to participate, support, and share herself to promote STEM for females, as well as the population as a whole. She is one of the best resources I have in our STEM work across southwest Virginia.”