OGDEN — While one group discussed how cybersecurity could impact self-driving cars, clusters of girls were sprawled out on looking at floor plans while others built their own colorful creations with 3-D pens. 

In the midst of it all, Mountain Crest High School sophomore Sarah Brown said in her experience, technology classes are boring.

But that wasn’t the case at SheTech Explorer Day Friday, March 31.

“If you take tech classes at school, it’s just you with 20 other guys and I’ve done that before and it’s not exactly pleasant,” Brown said. “This is an experience with just girls and it’s fun.”

Sara Jones is a co-founder of the Women Tech Council, the group that organizes SheTech. The Women Tech Council mentors females from school all the way through to careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

The annual SheTech event was started four years ago at Utah Valley University. This is the first year it has been expanded to locations throughout the state like Weber State University, so more girls can attend.

About 400 ninth- through 12th-grade girls from 30 different schools in Utah spent the afternoon learning about STEM careers from industry representatives.

Jones said the goal is to show the students various types of technology and potential career paths.

“We want this to be only the beginning,” she said. “We want to help guide them through all of these possibilities and keep them in STEM.”

Women make up 48 percent of the workforce in the United States but only 24 percent of STEM workers, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2009 American Community Survey. 

But the numbers are improving, as the National Science Board reported 29 percent of STEM workers were women as of 2013.

National Association of Women in Construction member Tracy Heun was excitedly showing groups girls the floor plan for a school. She explained one of many jobs available in her field includes analyzing documents like these and calculating how much building projects should cost based on every single square foot of drywall, floor, locker and door handle.

“It’s another career possibility that I think a lot of people don’t think of,” Heun said. “Construction has a bad connotation. You think, ‘Oh, eww, construction guys,’ but it’s not like that. It’s good money. It pays well.”

Near another booth, Hannah Cornia, a 16-year-old sophomore at Utah Military Academy, used a bright green 3-D printing pen to make a miniature Mike Wazowski, a character from the Disney movie “Monsters Inc.”

Cornia is considering a career in psychology but said she knows technology will be a part of whatever job she chooses, even if it hasn’t been invented yet.

“It’s scary, yes, because I don’t know what’s coming, but it’s also thrilling because I don’t know what’s coming,” she said.

A Utah Technology Council survey of 40 Utah companies released in 2015 found there were more than 1,105 open positions in technology and engineering, with 72 percent of respondents planning to hire even more people in the following year.

In an effort to address those industry demands, SheTech was also tied to the Talent Ready Utah workforce initiative.

“It’s a true industry-education partnership,” Jones said. “That’s one of the things that’s really important to our state right now.”

Contact education reporter Anna Burleson at aburleson@standard.net. Follow her on Twitter at @AnnagatorB or like her on Facebook at Facebook.com/BurlesonReports.

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