By: Ashley Smith
STEM is a combination of four of the most important fields that will continue to grow and exist as time continues forward. STEM stands for; Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. In the view of an average person each field is separate but in reality they all encompass something bigger. Each of these branches work together to make this world what it is today and what it will be in the future. The only problem with these fields, is the lack of women. There are not nearly as many women as there should be. Throughout history women have been slowly entering into these fields and making dramatic impacts that have shaped today’s world. Without women, computing, as we know it, wouldn't exist. Ada Lovelace invented the first Scientific computer and Grace Hopper wrote the first compiler. Many of the world’s first programmers were also women (Info graphic). When women were first starting to enter the workforce there were very few who had an interest in a STEM field. In more recent years these fields have seen dramatic changes in the number of students earning their degrees in these areas. Currently, 74% of high school girls show an interest in STEM (Info graphic). So, how do we inspire these women to move in the direction of STEM? Simple. We show them that this isn't a man’s world. If we can just light the flame when girls are young then as they get older their confidence will push them in the right directions. One spark is all it takes to light a fire.
The purpose of this website, STEM Women on Fire, is to be a tool for girls and women of all ages to learn from the experiences of others and to figure out what’s right for them. Myself and the other members of the Ultimate Mentor Leadership Council have been working on collecting interviews and advice from various women in all forms of STEM careers. Very few women will tell you that they always knew what they were going to do one day. Most will tell you that what they are doing now is not what they thought they would. Each of our interviewees have grown to become the women they are today from the experiences that they have encountered throughout their lives. Each and every one of the women on this site have made themselves be the image that they want to be. When girls get to high school they already have an image set in their minds of who they believe they should be. In today’s world, thanks to the media, that image is largely centered around beauty. Many kids will look at STEM as a boy thing, a nerd thing, something they could never do, something that they aren't smart enough for. The last two thoughts are some of the most common thoughts that go through a girls head when she thinks of STEM. Many girls feel this way, there was even a time when I was one of those girls, when i didn't think i was smart enough to do something like join my school’s robotics team. My freshman year, the day of the first robotics meeting, i stood outside the classroom for 5 minutes debating whether or not I should go in. I had no prior knowledge that would help me and I knew no one else on the team. I ended up deciding to go in and three years later I am proudly running for president of the team. Taking chances is one of the best ways to learn and as students it’s our job to learn as much as we can now to prepare us for our futures. The experiences, knowledge and friends i have made on this team are things that i will have with me for the rest of my career. Right now, I am an aspiring Electrical Engineer, however, in 10 years i can’t tell you what ill be doing because I have no idea. What I do know is that I love STEM, and I want to spread the magic of it to as many people as possible.
Did you know that Natalie Portman, who plays Jane Foster in Marvel’s Thor, is a scientist who went to Harvard and spent a lot of time investigating a new, ‘environmentally friendly’, method of converting waste into useful forms of energy? I didn't either until one day when I saw a article about her on Facebook. Instead of taking me to the article (which was rather upsetting) it took me to the Ultimate Mentor Adventure Contest which is what brought all 10 of us together. We all entered, proceeded to win and went on an adventure of a lifetime together. This adventure that my friends and I participated in changed the way each of us look at STEM. Personally, I see STEM as a hallway of doors. Each door leading to something new and different. (That article about Natalie is a perfect example of one of those hidden doors.) There are so many applications and branches of STEM that that hallway will go on forever each door leading to more. STEM is about opportunity and making choices. This website is here to help you make some of those choices and to help give girls and women the courage they need to open that first door. I have had so many doors open to me because I have a passion for STEM and I have gained the courage and curiosity to want to go and see the possibilities of all of them.
STEM isn't for everyone, but you will never know if it is for you unless you join that club or you take that class. Some people already know what they love and all I can hope for is that they have the courage to go for it. If I could leave you with one piece of advice, it’s that, the first step is always the hardest and that there will always be problems and pitfalls along the way, but if you can get past them, and keep moving forward you will reach your goals. Whether its to become a Scientist, Technician, Engineer, Mathematician or whatever it is that you want to be, no one can tell you otherwise.
Today is the 1 month anniversary of the initiation of our UML council! On our adventure in Hollywood, our council decided to use the 10th of every month to commemorate our continuing STEM journeys. The 10th of November was the day after our adventure ended; a day that signified new: beginnings, friendships, outlooks, and dreams (also a day of much needed sleep!). There are also 10 council members in the Ultimate Mentor Leadership Council, so 10 felt like a rather fitting number. Starting this month, we would like to give you little updates on what we have accomplished, the challenges we’ve faced, and what has changed since our adventure. Given that I’m the sentimental geek who pestered everyone over the weekend to write up something, I’ll start!
Since I have already introduced myself and told my whole life story and what not, you all know me as Jordan, the star-gazing, pineapple loving skateboarder. I feel that it is safe to say that my life since our adventure in California has been an absolute whirl-wind! Since I arrived back home at the airport in Nashville, I have begun drawing up plans for a local STEM mentoring program for younger girls (details are forthcoming, so stay tuned!). I have also been interviewed by a local news station (yay!); continued facilitating robotics club meetings for 4-H; anxiously inched closer to FIRST FRC game season with my other robotics club (go team 2306!); stayed in touch with my SUPER FANTASTIC mentor, Elaine; begged literally every eligible stranger to enter the next UMA contest; and tried to keep my head down to a considerable size so that it will still fit through doorways. Sorry to report that I have not yet met the president, nor have I been asked to be in the next Thor movie YET.
All jokes aside, my life has changed so much since this trip and I see the world in a new light. I have a passion for STEM like I have never experienced before and I cannot wait to share this passion with younger girls! The thought of building a new generation of scientists and engineers consisting of both males and females equally give me the warm fuzzies inside. I so look forward to seeing what the next few months have to bring. See you in January! Toodles! ~ JT
Hi everyone! I know most of you must be freezing in those chilly snowstorms, so here are some warm wishes from the entire council and we hope you all stay safe and bundle up.
Over the past month, I have also been counting down the days to the FRC Kickoff for FIRST Robotics. My team, the Francis Parker W.A.R. Lords - 2485 (https://www.facebook.com/FRCTeam2485), has been busy preparing for our upcoming season. From programming to shop skills, all of us are eager to learn about what this year's new challenge will be (water challenge??). If you're interested in starting your own FIRST Robotics team, visit usfirst.org.
In addition, I have also been working on Science Olympiad. This year, I will be participating in Elastic Launched Glider, Astronomy, and Mission Possible. Every Sunday, another fellow AMAZING female scientist comes over and as we watch the 49ers game, we construct a Rube Goldberg type device. Our "experimental" devices have included some catastrophic moments, including flooding our project, but hey! That's science...isn't it? If you're interested in starting your own Science Olympiad team, visit soinc.org.
My girls in Girl's Science have also had a fun month filled with STEM. We worked on taking apart everyday devices, including remotes and toasters. They started understanding the electronics behind a lot of their lifestyles, and I could see the "sparks" igniting in their minds. I added some pictures (excuse the quality) to this post so you all could share in the magic too.
It's been a great month but I really can't wait to see what all of our other council members are doing. Until 2014, Anoushka.