This past week, at age seven, first grader Zora Ball became the youngest person to create a mobile application video game. First off, talk about impressive – when I was seven, a successful day included dancing to the Spice Girls on my bed in my pajamas and Dunkaroos in my lunchbox (preferably chocolate). Go Zora!
More importantly, however, let’s use Zora as proof of something really important: that girls can love math and science and be passionate about it, and that programs to show girls that Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) can be fun and interesting are vital.
Ball is a first-grader at Harambee Institute of Science and Technology Charter School in Philadelphia, PA. She (and the other students in the STEMnasium learning academy) attend class every Saturday and love it – they even come voluntarily on weekends! The program is even currently teaching students Mandarin Chinese – with the idea that students will complete transactions in Philly’s Chinatown. IN MANDARIN CHINESE.
Zora is proof that when little girls are turned on to STEM, they get into it. Take the toy Roominate – it’s a buildable toy house that kids design and wire themselves. Read more »
Whenever I open up Google and there’s a new Google Doodle waiting for me, I’m always a little excited – clicking on it always takes me to a short little game to play, or a fun animation, or information on an awesome historical figure I’ve never even heard of.
And this week was no exception – Wednesday brought me this adorable Doodle, honoring Mary Leakey:
Mary Leakey was a British archaeologist and anthropologist who discovered the first fossilized skull of Proconsul, an extinct ape now believed to be an ancestor to humans, among a number of other really cool things.
As a kid, Leakey had an adventurous spirit. Her interest in archeology was sparked at a young age, when her family visited Les Eyzies where another archeologist was excavating a cave. When her family moved to France, she found a mentor in Abbe Lemozi, the village priest, who toured caves with Mary to view prehistoric paintings. Read more »
NASA launched the MissionSTEM website to assist NASA grantees in meeting their compliance obligations under the federal civil rights laws and to find ways to “creatively address issues such as attracting and retaining diverse students in STEM,” as NASA’s Administrator, Charles F. Bolden, Jr. stated in a video introducing the new website. In his video remarks and corresponding blog post, Mr. Bolden references the “Moon Speech” given by President Kennedy at Rice University in 1962 (video/text), in which the President announced plans to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade – even when many of the things that were necessary to make that happen had not even been invented yet.
The President acknowledged that the rapid pace of change in our world created new and more challenges – “new ignorance, new problems, new dangers.” However, he proclaimed that “the United States was not built by those who waited and rested and wished to look behind them. This country was conquered by those who moved forward.” Read more »
Math is important. It seeps into our everyday lives in ways we don’t even think about. We all – well, some of us - know the important feeling of triumph after successfully creating and sticking with a budget (when that happens, I personally feel like draping a flag over my shoulders and doing a victory jog around my neighborhood), or decoding important statistics on our own. Not to mention that science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers are relatively well-paid, and more women in STEM fields could help close the wage gap between men and women – women make only 77 cents to every dollar men make.
Too many girls steer clear of STEM courses, beginning at an early age. Even though women make up a majority of college and graduate students, only 19% of physics bachelor’s degrees and 16% of master’s degrees in engineering and engineering technologies have gone to women. Girls are presented with a stereotype that girls won’t do well in math from an early age, and 57% believe that they would have to work harder in a STEM career to be taken seriously. Popular chains among teenage girls create t-shirts that advertise that the wearer is “Allergic to Algebra”. Even teachers have bought the hype. High school math teachers tend to rate female students’ math abilities lower than those of their male peers, even when test scores are comparable. In universities, women face blatant sexism and uncomfortably pervasive objectification of women in their departments.
So how do we fix this? Well, for a start, we need more female role models and mentors. In 2005, women made up only 19% of all full-time math faculty! Which is why I’m thanking god for Winnie Cooper. Read more »
Since we’re smack dab in the middle of back-to-school season, I thought I’d talk about a couple of STEM-related things this week. In case you’re wondering what STEM is, it stands for science, technology engineering and math, and it’s no secret that women are under-represented in those fields. I want to start with a story I caught on Monday – it’s a blog post from Jezebel on Danica McKellar, also known as Winnie Cooper from the TV show The Wonder Years. After The Wonder Years went off the air, McKellar studied mathematics at UCLA and published four math books aimed specifically at girls.
“Geometry is responsible for the shape of the house you live in, the cars on the road, the shoes on your feet, and even the book in your hands. Diamond rings wouldn't be nearly so sparkly without the study of angles, and your favorite dress wouldn't fit nearly as well without the science of curves.”
When I was studying geometry, I couldn’t have cared less about diamond rings. But, I also had terrible math anxiety and always fell behind most of my classmates in every math class I took. Read more »
Brittany Wenger deserves major props. The 17-year-old from Florida just won the Google Science Fair Grand Prize for creating an app that has an “artificial brain,” which it uses to diagnose breast cancer. While we may not understand how exactly it all works, we are thoroughly impressed.
Wenger’s app uses a “neural network” to, “detect complex patterns and make diagnostic calls on breast cancer.” The app works using data from a “fine needle aspiration,” a type of biopsy. Users can input their test data and the app will identify, with a 99% success rate, if the tumor is malignant. Read more »
I remember how every day in elementary school we’d march down the hallway in our (mostly) single file line, keeping our heads facing forward and our hands (again, mostly) to ourselves. When we rounded the corner between the gym and the main office there was a framed 8 x 10 portrait of Sally Ride hanging on the wall – nobody else, just Sally Ride. I distinctly remember wondering what that woman with the serious hair-doo was doing up on the wall all by herself – I knew she wasn’t the president, she wasn’t our principal, and she wasn’t on Nickelodeon, so that pretty much left my eight-year-old self with no other options.
I eventually learned about Sally Ride, and I continue to respect and draw inspiration from the incredible advancements she made as an American and as a woman. Being the first American woman in space is an incredible accomplishment, but Sally Ride is so much more than that. I can only speculate as to why Sally Ride’s was the lone picture up in our hallway, but I have a strong feeling these 10 reasons may be part of it. Read more »
We’ve got two wildly different stories ahead in this week’s roundup. The first focuses on a new ad in New Zealand, and the second on a STEM project in Central New York. Without further ado, let’s start with the ad.
Yes, this is an actual ad running on TV in New Zealand. I know it might be hard to believe when compared to U.S. advertising, but yes, they say the word “vagina,” in it. And talk about a decidedly not sexy topic, vaginal discharge. Go ahead and give it a watch below. (But please don’t tip some members of the Michigan House off about this, seeing as they don’t like talking about lady parts.)
I thought it was pretty cool when U by Kotex came out with their first ad for their line of tampons mocking typical feminine hygiene ads. You know, the ones featuring women frolicking on the beach and demonstrating how their product works with a weird blue liquid.
But this (mostly) no-nonsense approach from Carefree trumps those Kotex ads for me. Okay, the “naked lady artfully censored by flowers” bit might be weird to some, but I appreciate that the ad 1) recognizes that vaginal discharge is a real thing and 2) respects women enough to talk to them about it without talking down to them or making them feel “icky” about it. They also avoid trying to make it “cute,” because, really, is vaginal discharge cute? No. So let’s keep talking about it like grownups.
My now 85 year old grandmother from Costa Rica defied familial and societal expectations to pursue a career in biochemistry. She had the means to pursue a university education but her father did not support her ambitions. Women of her social class were supposed to get married after high school. So she ended up working in a lab to pay her own way through school.
My grandmother’s impressive work at the lab won her a scholarship to The Ohio State University and a rare and important opportunity to acquire training in Canada extracting and analyzing tree samples. However, the male research director of this project wanted to revoke my grandmother’s scholarship because of her sex. He justified canceling her scholarship, claiming he “did not want to risk her catching cold in the Canadian winter.” Read more »
Growing up in a post Title IX era, I did not think about discrimination on the basis of my gender in school. I played sports when and where I wanted to and participated in many accelerated courses in high school. As a humanities major and now a law student, I’ve mostly been in courses where women were equally represented, if not the majority of students.
The same is not true for my sister, Jessica, who is a nuclear engineer. In her time at Berkeley she was often the only woman in her classes and continues to be one of few women in her field. I asked her to about her thoughts on what Title IX and equality in STEM education means to her. Here’s what she told me:
“I have always been interested in how things work. I realized at an early age that math and science were my strong suits, so in high school I opted for advanced courses in these disciplines rather than in the humanities. When I was applying to college choosing a major was easy: I was going to be an engineer. Not only did I embody the characteristics that make a good engineering student, it was fun. Up until this point I was aware that people considered boys to be more interested, or even better, in math and science, but this was not apparent during my educational experiences.
Once I enrolled in Berkeley the dichotomy was obvious.