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Huntsville hosts Girl Scouts Cyber Tech Challenge program

The main goal of the challenge is to inspire young women to pursue a career in the STEM field.

Posted: Oct 19, 2019 5:43 PM
Updated: Oct 20, 2019 9:59 AM

Thousands of girls across the country are learning some new computer skills.

The Girls Scouts competed in their first ever Cyber Challenge event at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Huntsville was one of 10 cities across the country to host the pilot program.

After this, the challenge will be made to all Girl Scout councils in the nation.

The Scouts are given the following scenario: the year is 2050, and there's been a cyber attack on a moon colony. Now, it's up to them to figure out who hacked them and how to track them down.

However, the main goal of the challenge is to inspire them to pursue a career in the STEM field.

"People could be trying to scam you and use your personal information, and you don't even know it," 13-year-old Leah Townsend said.

Townsend has been in the Girl Scouts for seven years. She said she was excited for Saturday's challenge, even though others seemed a little nervous.

"They are probably nervous because it seems like a lot of work to handle, but I think it will be pretty easy,' Townsend said.

Melissa Morrison Ellis says she wishes she had a chance to do a STEM challenge when she was a Girl Scout.

"We never had opportunities like this. As an engineer, I'm curious if I would have been better prepared if I had those opportunities," Morrison Ellis said.

She is now a senior program manager at Raytheon. Her company helped put the challenge together to prepare middle and high school girls to pursue careers in the STEM field. Something she says is important because of the prevalent gender gap.

"Research will tell us if girls are not by 6th or 8th grade are not exposed to science, technology, engineering and math. They don't feel like those careers are open for them," CEO of the Girl Scouts Karen Peterlin said.

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, women currently hold just 26% of all STEM-related jobs. Peterlin says she hopes the challenge not only introduces them to a new skill, but hopefully sparks a new passion that will lead them to a future career.

"It's more than just a badge. It's saying we are preparing are young girls and women to fill that stem pipeline as those jobs are created in the future," Pertlin said.

Scouts like Leah are already excited to see what's next.

"I would like to see future events because a lot of people don't know about it," Townsend said.

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