The original objective of our project was to do something to educate others about women in STEM and why it’s a problem. Women are extremely underrepresented in the fields of STEM, or science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and Alexis and I wanted to let people know about this issue. Earlier in the semester we made a trip to The Catholic High School of Baltimore to give a demonstration about women involved in STEM fields. Trip was planned by Caitlin, Alexis, and Omar, as well as the UMBC rocketry club, whose members contributed both time and knowledge to our project.
The STEM day included not only a talk about the lack of women in STEM fields, but also three stations: an air cannon for target prediction, cloud in a bottle, liquid N2, demos with NeverWet and an instrumented egg drop using a Wii remote. These activities showed the young women how STEM fields like fluid mechanics, chemistry, and engineering can be used in real life and not just in a textbook. It was a fun way to allow the girls at the high school to interact with college students in these STEM fields and also for them to participate in science experiments. During her talk, Alexis also emphasized the importance in being aware of the discrimination these young women might face in future careers or education, and how to document and report these issues. Many women are not told how to deal with discrimination or harassment, and it goes unreported or is not taken seriously.
This trip was very successful because it was a way for us, as college students, to reach out to people younger than us and show them the importance, and fun, of being in a STEM field in college. We think interacting with people, especially high school students, about the importance of having more women in STEM fields has an impact on their future major decisions. The teacher at Catholic High asked Alexis to come back this summer and lead a rocketry camp for the same STEM students, and to come back next year to give another presentation to the young women in STEM. Clearly, our activities had an impact.
Alexis, Caitlin, Omar, and Deborah also put together an online survey asking people what they knew about women in STEM or if they knew anything at all. The idea for a survey was originally proposed by Omar, who wanted to make one to take to The Catholic High School but they could not be printed in time. Approximately 85 people participated in the survey and our results were varied. The first questions asked demographic information, including their gender and what the person’s major was, whether it was in a science field or a different one. Other questions were true and false about the facts involving the lack of women in STEM fields, like “There are more women than men in STEM fields: true or false” and questions about how people view the nature of men and women (ex. logical vs emotional). This survey was a good addition to our project because it allowed us to evaluate others’ knowledge about this problem or if they even knew it was an issue. The results of our survey can be viewed at this link.
Similar to Alexis, Omar tried to get his high school STEM club to participate in an event to get motivate and reassure girls to stay interested in science majors. Unfortunately due to a mix of scheduling issues from the high school and actual school work, he was not able to find a fit schedule. This was a big setback on his part, but it is not the end. During the semester, he partook in a school event for middle/high school kids called SPLASH. Where, like Alexis, he demonstrates experiments and asks kids science questions that result with a small survey about the kids. He looks forward to continue this action to better help girls to get into science.
Based on our initial hopes and expectations for this project, we would say it was a great success. Allowing others to get involved in science while educating them about the lack of women in STEM was our main objective and it was a success. The trip to Catholic High definitely accomplished this task. Our survey also was a success because it gave us the opportunity to look at other people’s perceptions about this issue. Doing a survey gives us information for if we were to do this project again. If we were to do this again, I think a poster campaign would be a nice touch because it would spread the word by means other than the internet. The survey gave us info on what topics we would address next time if we were to do another high school visit. Overall, our project was fun to work on and it accomplished the tasks we wished to meet.