OTTUMWA — The areas first ever Latino 4-H group watched as robots welded pieces of round balers and other John Deere machinery together during a plant tour of the Ottumwa plant Thursday.

The informational event brought dozens of local Girl Scouts and 4-H members to the plant to celebrate Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, which is meant to open the eyes of young women to the endless possibilities an engineering degree can bring.

"Girls are very under-represented within the engineering major, so during this event we are trying to get them interested in science, engineering, technology and math (STEM)," said John Deere Program Manager Amber Pargman.

Although the plant has been opening its doors to the girls in the community for four years, this event was the time it has hosted members from these organizations.

"We are trying to offer as many STEM opportunities as possibles for girls so they can see what's out there for their futures," said Cindy Emery of Iowa State University Extension. "What they learn through STEM activities will help them when they get older because pretty much every job coincides with these topics."

The girls broke into different groups based on their age and worked with a female John Deere employee to learn about an exciting job they could have in one of Ottumwa's most profitable companies.

First-grader Jennifer Rivera called engineering a cool potential field of study as she showed off the four-wheeled balloon car she built during a hands-on activity inside the plant.

Pargman explained that touring the facility with women, like herself, who work in a STEM-related field will encourage more girls to study engineering. She explained that when she began her career at John Deere she was one of very few women working in the field and although that number has grown, it is still low when compared to men.

"Engineers do all sorts of things," said Pargman. "I think that when people think of it they have a very misconstrued view. They might think that engineers only work with machines but that's not true. There are a lot of things you can do [in this field]."

— Danielle Lunsford can be reached at dlunsford@ottumwacourier.com and followed @CourierDanielle.

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