La Plata, MD-  Students were off from school Monday, Oct. 8, but some showed up anyway. Girl Powered, a robotics program for girls in third through eighth grades, was held at North Point High School. It introduced engineering concepts and fostered teamwork among the girls, while they got tips from North Point student volunteers in the engineering program.

The field of STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics — is a male-dominated workforce, with women representing only 24 percent of it, according to VEX Robotics, the sponsor of the Girl Powered program.

By introducing younger girls to STEM activities, the workforce may grow to include diverse thinking, leading to more innovation.

“I was a little intimated seeing all the guys in my classes,” said Mary Anne Onianwah, a junior in the engineering Career and Technology Education (CTE) program at North Point. “There were only like three girls in class. But once you get in there and are doing the work, you realize anyone can do it. A girl can be the next one to change the game.”

“We never had this when we were younger,” said junior Shelby Hiens, an engineering student. “We had to find our own way to engineering. We want to share our experiences with the younger generation.”

Kai Ko is a male peer of Onianwah and Heins in the CTE program and sees the benefits of broadening the field to include more women and people with diverse backgrounds and cultures. “It allows for more ideas,” Ko said. “Different people have different backgrounds and bring new ideas and outlooks.”

During the Girl Powered program, participants were introduced to engineering concepts and worked in teams to build and program a robot capable of performing a series of tasks