STEM is an acronym for science, technology engineering, and mathematics and refers to any other subjects that fall under these disciplines. Building a STEM-based career is a very rewarding decision with the right exposure.
Starting off at an early age in STEM is an added advantage. It enables children, particularly girls, to develop a knack for providing new solutions to complex problems. Becoming successful requires studying diligently, engaging in a lot of projects, and surrounding yourself with experts in your chosen field to succeed.
Stephanie Espy is the Founder and CEO of MathSP, a company she created to empower and groom future female STEM leaders. As a Chemical Engineer, she is also the author of STEM Gems, a book that has fast become a movement in the STEM world. In this article, we take a look at how she exposes girls around the world to early careers in STEM via online events and the tools she uses.
Espy explains the details in this interview on the Business Infrastructure Podcast.
Why is STEM Such a Big Deal?
Over the years, research and statistics have shown a steady decline in qualified graduates to work in high-tech jobs in the US which is a result of not enough students venturing into areas of science, technology, engineering, and math.
MathSP is designed to help middle and high school students, particularly girls, develop a passion for math and science through inspiring stories, mentorship, and coaching. Combined, this leads to the practical application of their knowledge to real-life situations.
Of course, you know what math is. “SP,” on the other hand, stands for Strategies and Problem-solving. Therefore, MathSP is all about teaching those critical strategies and problem-solving skills necessary for success in STEM.
As a female chemical engineer, the noticeable absence of women in general and particularly women of color in her field propelled Espy to start the MathSP revolution. It would interest you to note that there are only about 19% of women have earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering. When you take a closer look, you would realize that the underrepresented women of colour account for about 3%. Shocking, right?
When is the Right Time to Commence Grooming for STEM?
It is ideal to start with students in middle and high school. At this stage, things start to take shape. Young people start having lots of homework, assignments, and tests. Also, it is a transition period when kids cross over to puberty with its attendant societal and peer pressures.
Middle school is most ideal to start grooming kids for STEM. This is because kids are gradually introduced to more advanced concepts. As a result, some parents can find themselves unable to help their kids with their homework at this stage. This is where STEM professionals can fill in this gap by teaching, mentoring, or volunteering their time to help kids excel in these fields while making connections to the real world and to their own lives.
At MathSP, parents are not left out as they are provided with information and knowledge to help them navigate problem-solving with their children. This is achieved by hosting enlightenment programs and events.
STEM Programs & Events – The Transition from In-person to Virtual
MathSP organizes events and programs to enlighten children as well as parents. Previously, this was achieved by hosting in-person events like STEM Gem summits, workshops, and summer camps where different speakers shared details about their respective careers and how they discovered their passion for what they do. Some events also included onsite visits to different schools.
All of that changed due to the pandemic. The need to transition from in-person events to virtual was unavoidable. Espy admits to initially being hesitant to conduct online events for fear of compromising interpersonal connections. But she soon realized the expansion opportunities that remote communication technology afforded. Now, instead of only hosting events locally she could host girls and their parents globally!
This is made possible with the aid of technologies like Zoom and Hopin.
Zoom and Zoom
Zoom has proven to be a reliable tool for hosting MathSP and STEM Gems virtual events. At MathSP, Espy leverages it to facilitate teleconferencing, online tutoring, among other activities. And Zoom offers a seamless and easy-to-use interface for hosting online STEM Gems events. An often-cited challenge with remote communication tools like Zoom is the loss of engagement.
It’s difficult for adults to sit still for extended periods of time in front of a computer watching an event, let alone children. In fact, Espy recognizes the need to have online events that are highly engaging. That’s why she revealed she and her team will soon transition to using Hopin to bridge this event participation gap.
Hopin’s platform offers a virtual venue with multiple interactive areas optimized to help attendees connect and engage with one another. It has an awesome interface that makes virtual conferences more engaging and interactive. Hopin’s unique features will enable STEM Gems to host its online summit with an opportunity to attract sponsors and partners.
Stephanie’s tips for hosting a successful STEM event:
#1. Run of Show
This is very important to put the STEM event together. It entails having a detailed item-by-item sequence of events taking place within the event. Run of Show means having a clear vision of how things are going to go at every given time of the show. Since a STEMS event requires bringing together many different speakers and participants as well as behind-the-scenes producers there is a need to ensure everyone knows exactly what to do at each given time. The Run of Show makes for better organization of online STEM career events.
For a successful online event whether via Zoom or Hopin, you need to work closely with and coordinate the efforts of many different people, each of whom contributes to the overall participant experience.
Producer: The producer is easily one of the most important people behind-the-scenes of an event. This person ensures everything goes on as planned, on time and within budget by creating a carefully constructed agenda and an itemized listing of all costs. The producer makes sure everyone behind and in front of the camera knows where to be and when and ensures that there are no glitches with the actual run of the show.
Host / Moderator: This is the person responsible for moving the program along, making the announcements, and making sure the right energy is maintained in the room. He/she serves as a catalyst for audience participation by encouraging them to ask questions, comment in the chatbox, and increase engagement by answering poll questions and surveys.
Speakers: The speakers are an integral part of any STEM event. The number of speakers can vary depending on the size and length of the event. A typical online STEM Gems event is held on a Saturday for a half-day featuring four speakers representing Scientists, Technologists, Engineers, and Mathematicians. Additional speakers can also include representatives from an event sponsor or partner.
Participants: While girls are the center of STEM Gems events, it is important to include their parents and teachers also as they tend to be the biggest influencers in a girl’s life.
Hosting and organizing an online STEM career event is made easy with the right technology. Virtual platforms like Zoom and Hopin give you specific features you can leverage to successfully host your event. Also, it is imperative to devise ways to organize these events virtually through early planning, the right processes, and sponsorship. Take heed of Espy’s advice on the business infrastructure (people, processes, and tools) needed for a positive and lasting participant experience.