BEDFORD — Hundreds of Girl Scouts were exposed to dozens of activities they might not normally try during a unique exposition Saturday geared to empower females to pursue their dreams.
“It is so great to come to this event and see all of these Girl Scouts excelling,” said Aurora Flores-Reisman, a troop leader from Merrimack.
The annual G.I.R.L. Expo attracted nearly 2,000 people to the New Hampshire Sportsplex, which was filled with exhibits, workshops and performances.
“Our girls are here and working as a team to try new things like rock climbing and building robots,” said Flores-Reisman of Girl Scout Troop 51517.
The expo allows girls to explore different interests, without running into gender barriers, said Patricia Mellor, CEO of Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains.
Lego robotics, digital games, archery, bike riding, rock climbing, arts and crafts, science experiments and more were all on hand during the day-long festival.
“For us, this is giving our troop leaders, parents and girls the opportunity to see what our world holds for them,” said Mellor.
For fifth-grader Emma McGregor of Newton, the Girl Scouts program has led her to new opportunities and new friendships.
“I joined Girl Scouts because I thought it would be a good experience where we could go camping and be outdoors,” said McGregor.
“I have come to really like it.”
On Saturday, McGregor joined her friends in leading a craft project for other Girl Scouts.
Rocketry exercises, an augmented reality watershed table and green-screen photo booth were also on hand at the expo.
The event highlighted various STEM initiatives, as well as the unveiling of a new Girl Scouts STEM-on-the-go van.
Nearly $150,000 was raised to purchase and outfit the van, which provides Girl Scouts with a 3D printer, smart TV monitor, Surface tablets, microscopes and mobile broadband.
“We are deeply concerned with studies that show girls are losing their interest in STEM by second-grade,” said Mellor.
“We need girls interested in STEM fields and in the workforce. We are here to step in and help fill that gap.”
Sarah Hoffschwelle, program delivery specialist with the Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains, said there is sometimes a financial burden associated with providing STEM programs to youth.
The new van helps overcome that barrier by offering troops access to a mobile STEM vehicle where they can learn basic coding, app development, cybersecurity, photography, robotics and space science, according to Hoffschwelle.
“Some of these girls have never been exposed to robotics,” she said. “I am so excited to be able to bring a variety of engaging and quality STEM programming to these troops.”
Girl Scouts have 42 STEM-related badges that they can earn, including digital game design, programming robotics, car care and more. The van will soon be providing two-hour badge workshops for troops throughout New Hampshire and Vermont.