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Women in STEM

A central Ohio museum is taking STEM to a whole new level. The Works, a history, art and technology museum is hosting STEMfest!, a competition focused on hands-on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) experience.

With the help of the staff at The Works, Dr. Joe Reczek, an Associate Pro Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Denison University organized the annual, industry issue contest, featuring problem-solving challenges. Students 7-12 grade pick a challenge and present their findings to a panel of judges. Winners receive an award and potential internships.

Margo, Rebekah and Dani all had a paid internship, supported by a grant from The Camille & Henry Dreyfus Foundation. Read more about their internship and STEMfest experiences.


Ten years ago, Margo MacDonald’s brother was diagnosed with Lymphoma. It was at that point in her life she knew she wanted to study medicine.

Margo participated in the bio-diesel fuel challenge at STEMfest! her senior year of high school. Her team used a variety of organic fuel sources, like olive oil, soybean oil, and canola oil, to see which one created the most energy. Her team came in second place.

“STEMfest! is different than in-class experiences. It gives you the chance to observe other STEM related fields,” said Margo.

Margo’s internship involved understanding liquid crystal properties of lab-manufactured, organic materials. It wasn’t just a resume-booster, but an experience that fueled her passion for a research career.

Margo is now a University of Pennsylvania Sophomore in biochemistry and biophysics. She is a research assistant at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania analyzing manufacturing data from a variety of cancer immunotherapy clinical trials.

Margo will graduate with a Master’s Degree and double major and hopes to pursue a career in oncology research.


For the last five years, Rebekah Abel participated in the Brain Bee, a Neuro-Science competition at Denison University.

Rebekah was home schooled, and her parents looked for unique ways to introduce STEM curriculum. In high school, she participated in many STEM competitions including RoboFest, the Brain Bee and STEMfest!

Rebekah and her younger brother participated in the polymer re-purposing challenge at STEMfest! Together they converted plastic water bottles into a pontoon boat. Using the bottles for the hull, straws and a plastic bag for the sail, and a blow dryer as their wind source, they set sail and took home first place!

Rebekah also earned a summer internship designing ways to test organic molecules as semi-conductors.

Rebekah studies International Security Intelligence, Psychology and Russian at The Ohio State University and hopes it lands her a job in Customs or Homeland Security.


After graduation, Dani Huffman didn’t spend her summer poolside. She was in a lab shadowing a chemist who creates new molecules, isolating them and making them pure.

While participating in the Global Scholars Program in high school, Dani traveled to China and Costa Rica. Both trips were opportunities to learn more about the economy of a foreign country and to observe their environment. It was on the Costa Rica trip Dani heard primatologist Jane Goodall and environmental activist Severn Cullis-Suzuki speak. What she heard reinforced her interest in environmental science, and helped her to declare this field as her college major.

As a high school senior Dani also participated in STEMfest! Her team tested available dyes to determine which one captures sunlight the best in a homemade solar cell.

This summer, Dani also spent five weeks at Denison University finding ways to purify and isolate products to a new reaction. Working side-by-side with a female chemist as a mentor will help Dani make an informed decision about her future.

Dani will study Environmental Science and play field hockey at Kenyon College in the Fall.

State Farm is a proud supporter of STEM education in Newark, Ohio by funding STEMfest!, and Kids Tech University through The Works - Center for History, Art and Technology.