Connecting Young Girls with the STEM Professions
Omnitech’s iNSPiRE events in South Dakota give 8th- to 12th-grade girls an opportunity to engage in workshops and connect with local professionals in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields.
Last year, more than 100 students from 20 schools attended the Sioux Falls event supported by 20 local organizations and 39 volunteers. This year, 110 students took part in the iNSPiRE Sioux Falls event on Friday, March 17, at the University of South Dakota (Sioux Falls) campus. Students were provided with information about STEM and business roles, thought-provoking exercises, and exciting workshops. They learned about the variety of opportunities available and explored future college and career paths.
One of these workshops — Pizza Genomics and Diversity — was presented in four, 40-minute sessions, by USD Biomedical Engineering graduate research assistant Jessica Zylla and undergraduate student Samuel Haas, under the direction of Dr. Etienne Gnimpieba.
The student iNSPiRE attendees were asked, “Can a bioinformatician determine the metagenomics of pizza?” 1, 2
The researcher in the lab works with a bioinformatician to have results analyzed. Their scenario: We have received a pizza and have been tasked with determining the species within this pie.
Together, the student attendees identified the DNA sequences manually and through BLAST, classified DNA sequences on a phylogenetic tree, and learned what bioinformaticians can do. The bioinformatics and computational skills were discussed.
For student instructor and graduate research assistant Jessica Zylla, the best part of the day was “being able to see the engagement, the ‘Aha!’ moment, when we covered something they hadn’t seen before. I loved getting questions.”
After its success in Sioux Falls last year, Omnitech decided to expand the iNSPiRE event to Rapid City for 2023. iNSPiRE by Omnitech will be held in Rapid City from 8 a.m. – 2 p.m. on Friday, March 24, in the South Dakota Mines Surbeck Center. There is a waiting list for the event, which filled to capacity in a short time.
“Although a lot of STEM fields are largely dominated by men, it has been our experience that women who choose these careers are very successful. We started this event to demonstrate opportunities to girls before they make career decisions and possibly iNSPiRE them to pursue STEM,” says Joe M. Krizan, Omnitech founder, president and CEO.
iNSPiRE helps young women learn more about the variety of college and career paths available in high-tech industries. Many of the volunteers and student mentors at INSPiRE are South Dakota alumnae who have careers in local high-tech companies.
1 Acknowledgement: We would like to thank all the USD students and staff members who helped plan and implement this lab, including: Tuyen Do, Ryan Rykhus, Tim Hartman, Bichar ShresthaGurung, Roshan Sapkota and Aniket Kumar. The science team leading this lab are supported by EPSCoR Track-1 National Science Foundation/EPSCoR Award OIA-1849206, the Institutional Development Award (IDeA) from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under grant number P20GM103443, and the NSF Award # 1920954 – Data Driven Material Discovery Center for Bioengineering Innovation.
2 Reference: BLATTER, Marie-Claude et al. The Metagenomic Pizza: a simple recipe to introduce bioinformatics to the layman. EMBnet.journal, [S.l.], v. 22, p. e864, apr. 2016. ISSN 2226-6089.
Photos from the Day
Students took part in the iNSPiRE by Omnitech workshop at the USD Sioux Falls campus on March 17.
iNSPiRE by Omnitech 2023 Sponsors
- B9 Creations
- Black Hills Federal Credit Union
- Dakota Lettering
- Dakota State University
- First Bank & Trust
- Flyboy Donuts
- Graff Capital
- Hegg Realtors
- JLG Architects
- KLJ Engineering
- Larson Law Office
- Omnitech Inc.
- Pizza Ranch
- SDBN Communications
- Security National Bank
- South Dakota Mines
- South Dakota Mines Electrical Engineering & Computer Science
- Turbulent Games
- University of South Dakota
- University of South Dakota Biomedical Engineering
Omnitech Inc. provides custom software solutions to businesses in South Dakota and surrounding states. Starting in Sioux Falls in 1998 with a mission to provide a local option for software engineering solutions, Omnitech has expanded their reach nationally, while still maintaining relationships centered on honesty, integrity and quality. Over the last twenty-five years, they have evolved to best serve their clients’ needs based on technology trends and enhanced their engineering capabilities to include data, DevOps, business analytics and SharePoint.
Opening a Rapid City office in 2018 allowed Omnitech to provide full coverage across the state and increased interaction with students from the South Dakota Mines. This close relationship with Mines and other state universities has helped fine-tune their multi-year internship program and foster strong engineering talent in the state.