These STEM Websites Use Games and Quizzes to Inspire Young Women

EngineerGirl and IEEE TryEngineering teach girls about the field

3 min read
Three students in a TryEngineering Together sponsored classroom work on creating windmills after reading about wind energy on the TryEngineering Together platform.
Students in an IEEE TryEngineering Together-sponsored classroom work on building and testing their windmill designs after reading about wind energy on the program’s platform.
Photo: IEEE Educational Activities

THE INSTITUTEI worked in the engineering industry for only six months before I realized what I was really passionate about was helping the next generation of women interested in a career in science, technology, engineering, and math to succeed. Girls often are discouraged from joining STEM fields even though they might show just as much interest as boys do. I wanted to help change that, so I moved from Los Angeles to Mexico, where I had family, and started working with preuniversity girls as a teacher’s aide. In this position, I’ve been helping female students understand the various opportunities within STEM fields, and I map out potential academic and career tracks for them.

Science, engineering, and technology are essential for promoting the health and well-being of all individuals. Accordingly, it’s vital to have a balanced scientific talent pool so that tomorrow’s innovations represent—and serve—everyone.

Here are some websites I’ve used to point young women toward STEM.

EngineerGirl

The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) sponsors the EngineerGirl website, whose mission is to encourage girls and women to join the field.

The site features inspirational stories about inspirational stories from female engineers about their careers, as well as information on different engineering specialties and scholarship opportunities. Visitors can pose questions  and get answers from  working engineers. Featured topics include how to develop a support network and how to decide what to study in college.

The NAE sponsors other engineering programs and initiatives including the Grand Challenges Scholars Program, the annual Engineering for You video contest and the Frontiers of Engineering symposia. The programs also promote scientific education in research and recognize the achievements of exceptional engineers.

Engineering: Go for It

This kid-friendly site, sponsored by the American Society for Engineering Education, is full of fun ways to learn about engineering, especially for young women and minorities. It includes videos of student-designed projects such as a human-powered helicopter.

An advice column written by engineering students covers steps to take to get into the engineering program of your choice and how to prepare for school.

There’s also a blog, where students write about their engineering projects. Former eGFI participants have gone on to work on the 2009 science-fiction blockbuster Avatar, high-end sports equipment, and the popular game Angry Birds.

IEEE TryEngineering

The Tryengineering.org website is an excellent way to introduce girls to the field. The site—aimed at students, their parents, and teachers—features information on what it takes to become an engineer, such as accounts of professional engineers’ work experiences, lesson plans for teachers that feature hands-on experiments, and games that demonstrate what engineers do.

There’s also TryEngineering Together. Developed in partnership with Cricket Media, the e-mentoring platform connects industry professionals with students in third, fourth, and fifth grades. Using the specially designed curriculum—which is complemented by in-classroom, hands-on activities—students and their mentors explore articles on technical topics and then correspond with each other about them. Mentors ask the students questions and answer their queries.

SciGirls

PBS, a public-television broadcaster, and the U.S. National Science Foundation jointly sponsor this educational initiative. The TV program brings advocates and educators together to help inspire girls to pursue STEM careers. The associated website is one of the best resources I know of for helping to engage tween girls. The program’s episodes can be streamed from the site, which also offers games and profiles of prominent women working in STEM fields.

Valarie Romero is an academic, consultant, and researcher with a passion for improving social equity in education. She advocates for and mentors preuniversity girls interested in STEM. She plans to launch a nonprofit that focuses on increasing the number of female STEM researchers.

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Can This DIY Rocket Program Send an Astronaut to Space?

Copenhagen Suborbitals is crowdfunding its crewed rocket

15 min read
Vertical
Five people stand in front of two tall rockets. Some of the people are wearing space suits and holding helmets, others are holding welding equipment.

Copenhagen Suborbitals volunteers are building a crewed rocket on nights and weekends. The team includes [from left] Mads Stenfatt, Martin Hedegaard Petersen, Jørgen Skyt, Carsten Olsen, and Anna Olsen.

Mads Stenfatt
Red

It was one of the prettiest sights I have ever seen: our homemade rocket floating down from the sky, slowed by a white-and-orange parachute that I had worked on during many nights at the dining room table. The 6.7-meter-tall Nexø II rocket was powered by a bipropellant engine designed and constructed by the Copenhagen Suborbitals team. The engine mixed ethanol and liquid oxygen together to produce a thrust of 5 kilonewtons, and the rocket soared to a height of 6,500 meters. Even more important, it came back down in one piece.

That successful mission in August 2018 was a huge step toward our goal of sending an amateur astronaut to the edge of space aboard one of our DIY rockets. We're now building the Spica rocket to fulfill that mission, and we hope to launch a crewed rocket about 10 years from now.

Copenhagen Suborbitals is the world's only crowdsourced crewed spaceflight program, funded to the tune of almost US $100,000 per year by hundreds of generous donors around the world. Our project is staffed by a motley crew of volunteers who have a wide variety of day jobs. We have plenty of engineers, as well as people like me, a pricing manager with a skydiving hobby. I'm also one of three candidates for the astronaut position.

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