Above, Interim Superintendent Vivian Ekchian talks with students while attending the second annual Women in STEM conference sponsored by LA Unified and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

by Ellen Morgan
Office of Communications and Media Relations

JPL flight systems Engineer Tracy Drain talks with young students about her experience as the deputy chief engineer for the JUNO Mission, which sent a craft to Jupiter, landing 2016.

The hallways and classrooms of Franklin High School were transformed into a “mini-science museum” crowded with over 2,000 aspiring young researchers and engineers as L.A. Unified and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory partnered to host the second annual Women in STEM conference.

Female professionals in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields circulated and gave presentations about their work involving robotics, earth and water science, space exploration and other topics.

Women in STEM is the brainchild of Dennis Young, a business manager at JPL, who noticed his daughter was not getting the same exposure to STEM careers as his son. What began several years ago as a small event at his daughter’s school has evolved into a large annual event supported by JPL and L.A. Unified’s Division of Instruction.


Read about the inaugural Women in STEM conference in 2017


“I’m so pleased that my daughter and young women around Los Angeles are able to meet these female role models who show them that girls can grow up to be engineers and scientists,” Young said.

JPL presenter Tracy Drain, who worked on the Juno mission to Jupiter, said she is passionate about serving as a role model and encouraging young women to pursue STEM careers.

“It is magical to see them light up when they hear the real – and often unexpectedly fun – details behind the types of jobs we have,” Drain said.

Another participant, Diana Trujillo, who grew up in Colombia and now works on the Mars Curiosity Rover, echoed the sentiment.

“I feel as though I have the opportunity to travel back in time to tell my younger self how STEM can change her life in so many awesome ways and remind her to never give up.”

Some students took a moment amid the flurry of activity to express their excitement.

“Franklin was transformed into a mini science museum,” Franklin senior Quetzaly Castaneda said. “It was such an amazing day. I feel more empowered than ever to pursue a career in a science field.”