Ex-astronaut encouraging girls in math and science

Sunday, June 2, 2002

SAN DIEGO -- Carrie Leneweaver likes circuits. The seventh-grader admires the way the small pieces of a circuit board neatly interlock. The way the wires combine to produce a reaction when they are correctly assembled.

"I like figuring out how to put it together," says the 13-year-old from Chandler, Ariz. "It's just little pieces of something and you put it together and you make something move or light up."

"I just find that pretty cool."

So does Sally Ride.

Like the tiny parts of a circuit board, a new science club founded by the first American woman in space aims to link girls who are passionate about science with each other and with women already in science careers.

The goal is to keep elementary and middle-school students like Carrie from losing interest in science, engineering or math at an age when studies show they are most likely to do so.

"Our philosophy is to keep young girls interested, to introduce them to women role models and show them the range of opportunities open to them," Ride said.

The Sally Ride Science Club, founded late last year in San Diego, aims to inspire the next generation of female scientists and engineers. The club is designed to offer a forum for girls to discuss math and science, learn from professional women and participate in science-centered activities.

Carrie is one of the club's charter members.

The club's current roster of 1,000 members have access to a members-only Web site, monthly newsletters and e-mail updates about upcoming science events for girls.

Eventually, Ride envisions the club spreading nationally through local chapters that meet after school.

The club is the centerpiece of Imaginary Lines Inc., a for-profit company Ride started last fall to host nationwide community science festivals for girls in grades 6 through 8, and to offer girls-only events with partners such as Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala.

Studies show an overwhelming number get frustrated or turned off by math and science beginning in middle school, even if they have succeeded academically in the subjects. Some simply decide math and science aren't cool.

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