Saturday, March 20, 2004 Girls urged to set goals sky-high BY MARTHA MODEEN The Tacoma (WA) News Tribune Chantal Swanstrom knows how to build a working toy car out of a mouse trap and CDs. The 15-year-old loves science and math. She can hardly wait for her final two years of high school, when she can take chemistry and physics, after completing honors biology this year. "I don't get the best grades, but I like to learn everything I can," said Swanstrom, a Spanaway Lake High School sophomore. Auriel Sperberg, a Cedarcrest Junior High ninth-grader, also has been bitten by the science bug. She's fascinated by astronomy. Some girls shy away from science and math, a tendency educators hope to change. But for others, like Swanstrom and Sperberg, the subjects are as much a part of their days as soccer or shopping. On Friday, some 20 junior-high and high-school girls from the Bethel School District explored aviation and high-tech careers at the Museum of Flight in Tukwila. They joined more than 200 teenage girls from across the Puget Sound region for a two-day event called "Women Fly," a program designed to encourage young women to pursue technical and aviation careers. Students heard from women astronauts, stunt pilots and commercial airline pilots who fly the world's biggest jets. They rubbed shoulders with female World War II-era aviators, who cheered them on. Women account for about 50 percent of the general population, but only 6 percent of pilots and 10 percent of engineers, they learned. "Those are not good numbers," said Craig O'Neill, a Museum of Flight official. "We're here to change that." Indeed, on the science portion of state assessment tests last year 10th grade girls trailed their male counterparts in science, 31 percent to 33 percent passing the test. Last year marked the first year for state assessment test scores in science; teachers now say they'll closely watch trends in future test results. "All of the scores need to be higher," said Linda Dugger, Bethel's director of curriculum and assessment. On Friday, students performed hands-on science experiments. They charted flight paths and observed wind-tunnel conditions under which a plane would stall. In a space shuttle simulator, students averted a radiation disaster during a simulated emergency before landing on the moon. Students also watched in awe as stunt pilot Julie Clark performed loops, rolls and hammerhead turns in a video. Clark, 56, one of the first female pilots hired by a commercial airline, advised students to pursue their passion for flying. "If it's something you really want to do, absorb yourself in it," she said. Anne Simpson, a Northwest Airlines captain who flies 747-400s, agreed. But young people don't need to be superstars at school to succeed, she said. "People always ask if I was good in math. It wasn't my strongest suit," said Simpson, who has years of experience teaching young pilots. "Pretty much anybody can be taught to fly." Attached Photo: Sami Petersen, left, and Joanna Ellefson of Bethel Junior High School write a flight plan at the "Women Fly" program Friday.