Spiderman, Superman, and Batman – our classic superheroes in elastic tights and capes! Besides their unwavering bravery and passion for swift justice and action, what else do they have in common? Many of us do not immediately think of this, but it’s quite biologically obvious – their powerful Y chromosome. After all, their public superhero names all contain the word man in them, but wait, our DC and Marvel Universes also have super women too! We’ve got Wonder Woman and Batgirl and Black Widow and Jean Grey and so on, to name a few.
Just as our world needs flying telekinetic superheroes, our world also needs our non-caped superheroes – teachers, firefighters, doctors, engineers, and scientists. Men and women alike, such as Superman and Jean Grey, play crucial roles in nurturing and building our communities for the good. However, in a recent 2010 research report discussed by the American Association of University Women (AAUW), researchers find it puzzling how there are so few women representation in the fields of engineering, science and technology, and mathematics (STEM), traditionally dominated by men (1). Inherent negative social stereotypes and gender biases seem to unconsciously and consciously impede on young females’ performances and beliefs- that perhaps, girls really are not meant to be in anything ‘science’ and ‘mathy.’ That, girls are not as ‘smart.’ These implicit biases retard many girls’ growth mindsets and discourage them from pursuing aspirations and careers in STEM at a young age.
However, statistics show that these female stereotypes are not necesarily true. According to the US Department of Education, high school girls’ grade point averages in mathematics and science combined are higher than those of boys since 1990 to 2005 (US Department of Education). Girls’ math and science scores in school have dramatically increased over the last few years and continue to skyrocket. Gender disparities in STEM majors in university and careers continue to persist but have improved gradually in the 21st century. Part of this improvment derives from more fostering cultures and learning environments at school, encouraging more girls to pursue their passions in science and math. Organizations, such as Society of Women Engineers and Association for Women in Science, have been developed to further empower women.
The key is empowerment for young girls and women alike. And, Joely, a student from the University of Washington in the United States, does exactly that.
Joely created an educational and interactive game called “STEM Curator: Women in STEM,” to highlight the importance of empowering women to enter STEM programs in the future. Programmed through MIT’s Scratch programming, the game “STEM Curator: Women in STEM” features a museum intern (you, the player!) tasked to design a museum to empower girls in STEM, Science and Technology, Engineering and Math. With interactive vector art and beautiful design, Joely’s project is featured below. Click the picture below to play the game and press the green flag to start:
Our team at Moosmosis also got a wonderful interview from Joely!
1) What inspired you to create your STEM curator project?
The final project for my English class was to make a project about identity and language. I decided to focus on something close to me, women in STEM. From an early age, I took a note of gender disparity in STEM. I noticed that very few of my female friends expressed an interest in science and technology, and even fewer in math or programming. I experienced discouragement from being the only girl in programming classes, having my gender constantly pointed out, and others expressing doubt that I was interested in anything STEM related. I wanted to explore how society discourages women from entering STEM fields, and steps toward a solution, and thought it would be fun to do that with an interactive game! I’ve been using Scratch since I was 11, and thought it was a great platform that could reach an audience of children and tweens beginning to program, helping inspire and empower them.
2) What message do you hope players/visitors can take from the game?
I hope players not only see that the discouragement women face when entering STEM fields is entirely cultural, but also there are steps they can take to help solve the problem. I think too often social justice focuses too much on problems and blame, which isolates and makes supporters feel helpless. I want everyone playing to feel empowered and connected and like they can make a difference.
3) How long did it take to create your project? What aspect of the game are you most proud of?
From planning to completion it was about 2-3 weeks. Most of the time was for research and development and gathering images. The actual coding took 6 hours. The thing I’m most proud of is how this project has been received, and all the all the comments and interactions with other Scratch users. Comments about how the project inspired them, STEM programs they participate in, and their plans for the future, are so heartwarming. When I’m having a bad day, it inspires me to keep going.
4) Last but not least, what are your future aspirations and career plans?
I’m currently at the University of Washington, majoring in computer science. I would love to apply my skills to a positive cause, possibly relating to education or the environment.
Thank you Joely for your passion in STEM! For more of Joely’s work, check out her personal website at http://createdbyjojo.tumblr.com. You can also reach out to her on her Linkedin and Scratch programming page.
- American Association of University Women. http://www.aauw.org/research/why-so-few/
- National Center for Education Statistics. https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2014/2014001rev.pdf
- Women in Stem: A Gender Gap to Innovation. http://www.esa.doc.gov/sites/default/files/womeninstemagaptoinnovation8311.pdf
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