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Emily Stanek and Katherine Shriner believe STEM experience will benefit their future careers.

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Branching Out With STEM

Two friends embrace science and consider their future bright

Once an area dominated by boys, more girls are getting involved in STEM. For Starr’s Mill High School rising sophomores Emily Stanek and Katherine Shriner, it’s an interest almost as old as their friendship, which began in third grade.  

STEM, an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, helps prepare students for careers that meet the needs of today’s complex, global economy.  Katherine loved logic puzzles as an enrichment student, and her first STEM project in elementary school was a 3M challenge in which she worked with a partner to develop an idea for a computer program to monitor screen time and age-appropriate content. Emily focused on STEM projects during summer camps and in 7th grade worked on a model future city for the elderly project.

When it was time for the friends to partner on their first science fair project, the choice was easy. Katherine’s father had rebuilt a deck a few years ago and even though he stained the wood, it still cracked.  Since Katherine’s father and Emily’s grandfather are both woodworkers, the girls set out to discover which coatings would best preserve and protect their projects. They cut and numbered pine blocks, coated them with a variety of sealants, and using a wood moisture meter analyzed how the sealants affected wood moisture.  The project took several months, and to their surprise, one of the blocks coated with stain fared worse than an untreated block. The winner among the tested coatings was clear, semi-gloss Minwax Polyurethane.

Their project was among the first-place winners in this year’s Fayette County Science Fair and a third-place winner in the Griffin RESA Science Fair.

The friends believe the logic, method and patience required in their STEM experience will benefit their future careers. Katherine is leaning toward a career in criminal justice, and Emily would like to pursue a robotics engineering major at the U.S. Naval Academy.

  • Emily Stanek and Katherine Shriner analyze wood preservation data.
  • Emily Stanek and Katherine Shriner believe STEM experience will benefit their future careers.
  • Katherine Shriner and Emily Stanek show their wood preservation data.