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STEM Education Highlights


Whitaker Center STEM Education Highlight


In 2006 Drs. Jo Ann Wilson and Terry Dubetz launched Girls in Engineering, Math and Science, affectionately called GEMS, at Florida Gulf Coast University supported by an internal grant. To date it has served more thousands of middle-school girls from our surrounding counties. Grants supporting GEMS have been provided by the Women’s Fund of the Foundation of Collier County, American Honda Foundation, and the Florida Space Grant Consortium.

GEMS is a hands-on program dedicated to science education for regional middle-school girls by enthusiastic professionals, undergraduate and graduate students as facilitators and role models in a girls-only environment. GEMS conferences occur in the Fall and Spring semesters and in the summer. Middle-school girls come to the FGCU campus and spend the day immersed in activities guided by faculty and FGCU student facilitators. Activities have included bioengineering, chemistry, biological science, biotechnology, forensics, astronomy, math, civil engineering, and environmental science. The participants enjoy working with the FGCU students and by design the positive experiences go both ways. It is exciting to watch women of all ages come together and work together engaging in engineering, math and science activities. We all reap the benefits.

GEMS provides a launching pad to develop an early interest in engineering, math, and science as an impetus to higher education and highly-skilled careers. Because women are greatly under-represented in these fields, girls are a pool of human resources that should be developed and mentored to help alleviate the scientist and engineer shortage and bring greater gender equity to these areas. The technological and scientific achievements of the past decade and those projected for the future have created a heightened need for a scientifically and technologically literate workforce at a time when too few people are available for these positions. These nationwide concerns are apparent in Southwest Florida with a shortage in the fields of engineering, health professions, and math and science middle and high school teachers.

The Whitaker Center is proud to support Drs. Wilson and Dubetz in their continued work with girls in FGCUs five county service area. The Whitaker Center assisted the sponsorship of a GEMS Girls Scout Adventure. This very successful opportunity offered by Whitaker Center Faculty continues to hold yearly camps and workshops for girls in science.  

GEMS programs are on-going.  For more information about the GEMS program, contact