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XTO Energy Introduces Middle School Girls to Engineering at Belmont Career Center in St. Clairsville

Photo by Scott McCloskey Dozens of middle school girls from Shadyside, Bellaire and Powhatan Point schools participate in XTO Energy’s Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day at Belmont Career Center.

Dozens of seventh- and eighth-grade girls had an opportunity to find out what it might be like to become an engineer.

Students from Shadyside, Bellaire and Powhatan Point schools participated Tuesday in XTO Energy’s Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day at Belmont Career Center. The event encouraged the girls to consider career fields in science, technology, engineering and math.

XTO Energy, an ExxonMobil subsidiary, hosted the program in Belmont County as part of its work to encourage girls to consider careers in the STEM fields. As part of the event, students heard from a several of XTO Energy’s female employees, including engineers, about how they became interested in working in the energy industry.

Students also had the opportunity to get hands-on experience with the STEM fields as they conducted different classroom experiments during the day-long educational program.

“We wanted to get them in the middle schools … so that we basically spark an interest in math and science at an early age,” said Karen Matusic, public and government affairs manager of the Appalachia District for XTO Energy. “This way we can show that there are plenty of opportunities. We have all the different careers that are available in oil and gas — and a company like ExxonMobil and XTO really want to encourage more women and minorities to join the engineering field.”

XTO Energy Operations Engineer Lydia Jones said this event was a good opportunity to introduce girls to math and the sciences. She said one of the things she noticed while pursuing her engineering degree at Marietta College is the number of women enrolled in engineering fields is still considerably less than men, even with the recent rise in the oil and gas industry during the past few years.

“So I’m just kind of encouraging these girls … that engineering might not be something that is obvious to you, but it is something that you can absolutely do,” Jones said.

She said a deck of cards experiment showed the girls how anything they build — whether it is something small such as a table or large such as a drilling rig — needs to be strong enough to handle the job it was built for. She said the experiments also are designed to encourage creative thinking among the students.

Elizabeth McAninch, an eighth-grader at Bellaire Middle School who hopes to work in the sciences someday, said she enjoyed participating in the program and the challenge of the hands-on experiments.

“I want to work with either animal species or plant species,” she said.

Rhonda Reda, executive director for the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program based in Granville, Ohio, said one of the goals of her office is to talk about workforce development in the region. Reda said she attended Tuesday’s event with the hope of explaining just how many different types of occupations are available in the work force.

“Predominantly, just in this area, we’ve gone from 14,000 employees to over 200,000 — that’s a lot of workforce,” she said. “And so with these girls, it’s explaining the opportunities that frankly were not available to them 20 years ago.

“It is everything from the diesel mechanic, to the welder, to the high level engineer,” Reda said. “So we’re here talking to them about 82 different careers and the scholarship opportunities.”


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