I love it when creative, imaginary life supports STEM action in real life! Last week I talked about the new scholarship named for The Big Bang Theory established to support low-income students at UCLA pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). This week, I'm excited to spread the word about another entertainment entity encouraging STEM education: Marvel's Ant Man Micro-Tech Challenge.
The contest is designed to inspire and encourage scientifically-minded young women, and the winners will receive a trip to the Hollywood premiere of Marvel's Ant-Man, meetings with innovators from Walt Disney Imagineers, and a tour of the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, CA, as well as a leadership role in a local workshop focused on building their creation.
Want in on the action? Here's more information from the contest site:
MARVEL, DOLBY LABORATORIES, VISA, and RASPBERRY PI are looking nationwide for girls – just like you – ages 14-18 in grades 9-12 to create and share micro-technology based DIY projects they have built using readily accessible and found materials. Upon completion of the contest, build instructions for the winning projects will be provided to a STEM based girls program in the winners’ home community. Each winner will have the opportunity to lead a workshop in building her project for the selected program in her community.
Each MARVEL’S ANT-MAN: MICRO-TECH CHALLENGE applicant will design and build a DIY project using at least one inexpensive and readily available micro-technology component of her choosing. Projects can be utilitarian, artistic, or just plain fun.
After completing their projects, applicants will be asked to submit a short video demonstrating the projects and explaining how their projects will inspire other girls to pursue interests in science, technology, engineering, or math.
While the trip to LA is super-cool, one of the things I really love about the way this contest is structured is the hometown community element, where each winner's project will be featured in a local girls' workshop. There is a lot of talk about the "leaky pipeline" when it comes to girls and their interest in STEM, as they gravitate away from STEM education and careers at different stages of their lives. In "Fixing the 'Leaky Pipeline' of Women in Science and Math," Suzanne Bouffard looks at Nilanjana Dasgupta and Jane Stout's research on the topic. She writes:
During childhood and adolescence, girls internalize stereotypes from parents, peers, and the overall culture that STEM courses and careers are for boys. It is telling that boys are more interested in STEM activities than girls by age 10, well before performance differences emerge, because the pattern suggests that interests drive the performance differences, not the other way around. Studies show that girls tend to value communal goals like collaboration, altruism, and social problems, and they often don’t see the many ways that STEM careers can target these goals.
Dasgupta and Stout recommend that schools, community institutions, and parents:
- Make STEM activities more personally meaningful to girls’ lives
- Show links between STEM careers and communal goals
- Expose girls to more female role models through museums, after school programs, and summer camps.
Kudos to Marvel's Ant-Man Micro-Tech Challenge for attempting to patch up the pipeline in several ways, including engaging high school girls in a project about which they are personally passionate, creating a community of winners with the group trip to LA, and turning the girls themselves into role models for other young women when they return home and lead their project workshops.
Applications will be accepted until 9:00pm PDT, June 11th, 2015. For contest rules and requirements, head over to www.ant-manchallenge.com.