Monthly Archives: July 2014

Women in STEM

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Girl students at Mckinley youth center site

Silicon Valley giants are actively engaging in STEM (Science technology engineering and mathematics) education for women because according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, jobs in STEM have enormous prospects in future. It is observed that women are underrepresented in the STEM fields and so getting more women in the field will open a new horizon of opportunities for them. Most girls inherently love writing, reading, drawing, decorating, painting, and art work that block them from exploring STEM. As a result, they choose fields that do not involve science and math.  While creative fields of arts, humanities, and social sciences are equally important, we also want these girls  to step into the pioneering world of sciences for better future.

My internship at Jay Pinson STEM education program gave me a chance to work in the outreach programs with the under served communities of San Jose bay area. While working with the kids I found out that maximum girls in these communities keep away from STEM because they don’t like math. On the contrary, we observed that the girl students in our outreach programs did their STEM related projects with utmost interest and focus. Fourth and fifth grade girls along with the boys delightfully engaged in sawing wood, making circuit connections, soldering, and making games on computers.

For me, this experience highlighted the undercurrent reasons for poor representation of girls in STEM such as preconceived notion about math and science as difficult and boring subjects, lack of women role models working in STEM, and domestication of girls at home. Somewhere unknowingly, the pink culture of fairy tales, princesses and Barbie dolls also overpowers girls to limit their imagination in the innovative world.

Therefore, to bring the girls into STEM  they should be encouraged to explore colorful scientific dimensions, participate in STEM fields by experimenting with technology from artistic perspective and cultivate curiosity in math and science with creative techniques. The Jay Pinson STEM education  outreach program is one such attempt of introducing girls to the world of math and sciences. We taught students in these outreach programs to make solar power cars. Students made different  wooden car models with measuring, cutting, sawing, and pasting. They also fixed the circuits and soldered them. Their excitement doubled while making  solar panels with delicate hands and decorating the cars. It was fun to watch them play and race with their cars in the outdoors. Similarly, we also ran a cyber security module that taught the kids essential  Internet safety rules. Kids were taught to make their own games and learn basic coding with programs like Scratch and Microworlds. Finally, they made their own projects in Scratch demonstrating their understanding of cyber security through interactive animations. When asked if they would like to pursue an engineering or science related profession in future the students were all for it. I think, outreach programs like these are stepping stones towards encouraging girls in STEM and  Silicon valley giants who fund such  programs in the community are doing the precise thing to safe guard the future of  women in STEM. 

References

Davis, R. (2014). Women in STEM and Human Information Behavior: Implications for LIS Educators. Journal Of Education For Library & Information Science55(3), 255-258.

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Right major matters

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It is ironic that half of the women I know have no connection between their educational degree and their area of interest.  Maybe because as students when we make decision of selecting majors we are young, inexperienced, immature and we get easily carried away with the flow. This is especially true with my girl friends who  have told me that they studied to get a good husband, or because they followed their friends in selecting the major, or because of family pressure, or because there is lot of glamor attached to the field or because there were lot of jobs in a particular field and the list goes on. I met very few  women who chose to study the subject that they were passionate about.

I am no exception to it either. I myself realized after finishing Instrumentation engineering that I am not interested in working on chemical plants, shop floors, or industrial grounds. I realized only after learning AutoCAD and solidworks that I am interested in computers. Further, when I got the chance of teaching, counseling and sales I realized that I am actually enjoying communication. So it took me first 27 years to figure out what area of study interests me the most.

So this is my sincere effort to help girl students choose the right major of their interest in college without confusion and waste of time.

Before selecting any major  it is vital to have a clear picture of how that field of study can be used in real world. Further, it is equally critical to learn and explore different subjects and how they can be practiced in work force. Reading books on subjects of personal interest, or people who have excelled in that field is important to understand the connotations of that particular field of study. Also work experience in the area of interest can be an added advantage in selection of major. Believe me, you can make wonders if you choose to work in the field you are passionate about. 

Dear returning students

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Now that I am on the verge of finishing my Masters, I feel like sharing a word with all the aspiring returning students. Please do not put yourself down because you are older than the conventional students, or feel like you are late in the game. Every returning student has his/her own personal or professional reasons to go back to school that inspires them to go on even in the most adverse situations. It is proved that humans have the capacity to learn, develop and progress at any age therefore you are never too old to learn. Afterall, it is rightly said that better late than never.

In fact based on my  experience, college teachers  love returning students because they are focused, sincere, matured and they know the purpose of their education. So all you people out there who are thinking of going back to school, do not think otherwise….just go for it! Your family will be proud of you and will respect you for the choice you made of going back to school because education opens doors for better opportunities and ultimately better life!

Something extraordinary

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Golden gate bridge

Golden gate bridge

I feel it is important to make the best possible use of every opportunity offered by life. Sometimes we feel like our circumstances are limiting us in a particular place or situation, but the same situation can be materialized positively if used from a different perspective.

One such frustrating situation was when I learned that I could not work in the US because of my visa limitations. That is when I decided to explore other avenues to keep myself productively busy and I started volunteering in my kids’ school. In US, I understood the true meaning of volunteering which is an activity of offering free service towards the benefit of your community. Volunteering in the school enriched my experience of working with children, working collaboratively in a team, playing a leadership role and understanding the American psychology of education. My volunteering stint helped me connect with interesting people, make new friends and direct me to new sources for professional development in this country. Some of my volunteer friends enlightened me about the process of transferring to the University and I registered for Masters. I became emotionally and socially confident by  teaching in school, chaperoning on field trips and actively participating in school community events. My volunteering also created a positive impact on my children about contributing in the society as a responsible citizen. Further, my experience of volunteering in schools landed me an excellent summer internship in grad school. Therefore thinking of it now, if I would have started work right after coming to US,  I would not have understood the worth of volunteering and its importance to my community and me. I would have missed out on wonderful friends and their advice. So do not get dejected if a particular situation does not permit you to do something you are capable of because only then you tap into your true potential to do something extraordinary.