Amid the rising chorus of women’s voices demanding workplace equality in the U.S. and around the world, two fearless female-led STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) student clubs in Washington State and New Jersey are proving that girls and women are the future of the STEAM workforce, and the Samsung has helped them discover their own path with STEAM along the way.
Every year, Samsung’s Solve for Tomorrow Contest aims to bridge the skills and gender gap in these fields by challenging students to solve a problem in their local community through hands-on STEAM learning. At Lakewood High School, in Lakewood, Washington, the Girls in STEAM Club earned a Solve for Tomorrow state finalist slot in the 2016-17 contest for developing a solution for protecting non-invasive species in local lakes. Lakewood’s 9th-grade science teacher, Dani Leach, was thrilled to support the club as it took on the challenge.
“The sciences are typically male-dominated fields, which can be intimidating and deter female students from participating,” Leach said. “The idea of the Solve for Tomorrow Contest is incredibly exciting, because it allows students the ability to pursue their own interests and gives them a platform where they are encouraged – and praised – for doing so.”
Studies suggest that lack of encouragement and lack of female role models, as well as negative peer pressure, all combine to depress girls’ participation rate in STEAM fields, but at P.S. 5 Middle School in Jersey City, NJ the school’s five-member all-girls STEAM Club from 2016 has become role models for their peers.
Albert Padilla, the school’s 7th-grade science teacher, guided the STEAM Club throughout the Solve for Tomorrow contest in 2016 and the club went on to clinch one of the state finalist slots with their project to improve local air quality.
“We realize that we have power, and we can do anything that boys can do,” said Lailany M., a student who worked on the winning P.S. 5 project. “I think it’s important that girls get more involved in STEAM.”
Since being named a 2016 Solve for Tomorrow national finalist, P.S. 5’s STEAM club membership has exploded and now boasts 30 girls as members, up from the original 5 members. Four of the club members who worked on the winning project now attend STEAM-focused high schools and have their sights set on careers in engineering.
Padilla said girls bring something extra to the STEAM conversation: Empathy and passion.
“The Solve for Tomorrow Contest provided me the opportunity to incorporate problem-based learning into the classroom to get our students – and females specifically – involved in science and engaged in the local community so they can all be global citizens,” he said.