Billy Fregia, a paramedic with the Galveston EMS, guides Daphne Araujo in how to insert an endotrachial tube into someone not breathing. At the STEM Conference for Middle School Girls at COM students explored careers in science, math, technology and engineering.

Cockroaches slid and millipedes slithered in girls’ hands at the second annual STEM Conference for Middle School Girls at College of the Mainland.

A total of 100 girls from Texas City, Hitchcock and La Marque middle schools attended the all-day event showcasing careers in science, technology engineering and math.

"We got to touch bugs. Cockroaches hissed at us,” said Aaliyah Johnson, of Blocker Middle School. "We saw our [skin] cells in the microscope." 

Billy Fregia, a paramedic with the Galveston EMS, explained how to insert an endotracheal tube into someone not breathing.

“We got to puff air in a manikin. I had never gotten to do that before,” said Namira James, of La Marque Middle School.

The demonstration brought to life the anatomy students learn in class.

“We do biology and learn about the human body this year. I love that [the conference] so interactive,” said Cat Stephens, who teaches seventh grade science at Blocker Middle School.

In the biology workshop “Beaks and Cheeks,” students examined real and model skulls of horses, dolphins, nutria and crocodiles. Under a microscope, they compared cells from their cheek swabs to plant cells.

Students explored physical education with balancing boards and games, delved into statistics with skittles and discovered more about process technology.

“It was fun and not boring. We got to do it. It wasn’t just [teachers] showing us,” said Aizlynn Roark, of Blocker Middle School.

A chemistry show by of the Houston Museum of Natural Science formed the finale. An employee demonstrated what happens when liquid nitrogen freezes flowers and a student volunteer touched them (the petals shattered). Students also saw how the gel in diapers absorbs liquids and observed changes in matter.

“We wanted to give them a hands-on experience. In addition to opening the doors to science, we’re showing them what college is like,” said Jennifer Bieske, co-organizer and biology professor. “Research shows girls in high school have determined often their future careers, but middle school girls are more open to career options in science, math, technology and engineering.”

Students from Santa Fe and Dickinson middle schools will explore the COM STEM Conference for Middle School Girls from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Oct. 21.

For more information, contact Katrina Ricks at 409-933-8662 or