Dream Flight
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NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps trains in a spacesuit within a mock International Space Station model at NASA's Johnson Space Center

Astronaut Jeanette Epps will make history as the first black woman to live and work with a crew in space.

By Monica Luhar 

It was always her dream to one day go up in space.

Little did astronaut Jeanette Jo Epps know she’d be making history while doing it.

In August, NASA named Epps, who turned 50 on November 3, to NASA’s Boeing Starliner-1 mission, which marks the first operational crewed flight of Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS).

The mission, expected to launch in 2021, will mark Epps’ first space expedition while also making her the first African-American female astronaut to live and work onboard the ISS in a crewed flight for a six-month duration.

“I think many people dream of becoming an astronaut, most, however, never pursue it. My life has been geared toward it indirectly with the hope of becoming a viable candidate. However, it wasn’t until Spring ’08 that, because of the encouragement of a close friend, I realized that I would be a viable candidate and that I should apply,” Epps said in a NASA interview.

Epps will be joining NASA astronauts Sunita Williams and Josh Cassada on a six-month long mission to the ISS. The flight will follow strict protocol and NASA certification after a successful uncrewed Orbital Flight Test-2 and Crew Flight Test with astronauts.

Shortly after the flight announcement, Epps tweeted out her excitement for joining the expedition with her NASA colleagues:

Epps, right, spoke about her time in space at a STEM day session with students at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington. Photo credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

“I’m super excited to join Sunita Williams and Josh Cassada on the first operational Boeing crew mission to the International Space Station. I’ve flown in helicopters with Sunita flying and I’ve flown in the backseat of a T-38 with Josh flying, and they are both wonderful people to work with. So, I’m looking forward to the mission,” she tweeted.

Former NASA astronaut Mae Carol Jemison became the first black woman to travel in space after being selected to NASA’s astronaut program in June 1987. She was followed by astronaut Stephanie Wilson, while Joan Higginbotham was the third black woman to venture into space.

While this will be Epps’ first space expedition, it is not her first mission. In 2017, NASA assigned Epps to be a flight engineer to the International Space Station in mid-2018 for Expeditions 56 and 57.

She would have become the first African-American space station crew member, the first African American to launch aboard the Russian Soyuz vehicle, and the 15th African American to fly in space. But in January 2018, NASA ended up backtracking on its decision for reasons unknown.

But now Epps is back in action and is slated to make history through her first spaceflight to the International Space Station.

The Path to Space

The inspiration for a career in space exploration was embedded in Epps as a child. She was born in Syracuse, New York, as one of seven children to Henry and Luberta (née Jackson) Epps, Mississippians who moved to Syracuse as part of the Great Migration.

She and her twin sister, Janet, both excelled in math and science, and when Epps was 9-years-old, it was her brother who inspired her to pursue a career in space.

“My older brother came home from school at Rochester Institute of Technology when I was 9 and he took a look at my sister’s and my grades. He said, ‘Wow, you guys are doing great. You can be anything you want to be, an astronaut, whatever,’” she told a group of students, as reported by The Star Telegram.

But the journey to getting there wasn’t always a linear path; Epps dabbled in several different careers before becoming an astronaut for NASA.

Official Astronaut portrait of Jeanette Epps
Photographer: Robert Markowitz

She previously worked for Ford Motor Company, where she was responsible for research surrounding automobile collision detection and other systems that led to the success of a provisional patent and a U.S. Patent for her research. She also worked at the Central Intelligence Agency for seven years as a Technical Intelligence Officer before becoming an astronaut with NASA and working in the ISS Operations Branch to troubleshoot issues to support space station crews.

She received her Bachelor of Science in Physics at LeMoyne College, and her Master of Science and Doctorate of Philosophy in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Maryland.

In 2008, Epps had a conversation with a friend who encouraged her to apply to the Astronaut Corps. In an interview with Parentology, Epps said, “I never thought that they’d actually select me, but they did.”

In 2009, Epps was selected as one of 9 members of the 20th NASA astronaut class.

“I was truly shocked because of the caliber of people I met during the interview process,” she said upon hearing that she was chosen. “I met some of the most amazing inspirational people. It is a huge honor to have been selected!

During her graduate school career, Epps served as a NASA fellow and wrote many journal and conference articles discussing her research.

“Her graduate research involved extensive testing of composite swept‐tip beams, comparative analysis of analytical models and experimental data for shape memory alloys and the application of shape memory alloy actuators for tracking helicopter rotor blades,” according to NASA.

Inspiring Future Astronauts

United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, topped by a Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft lifts off
The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, topped by a Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, lifts off from Space Launch Complex in Cape Canaveral, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Epps knows all too well the importance of encouraging students who are interested in STEM and other career avenues to follow their dreams, no matter the hurdles.

She was recently invited to speak to youth at Weatherford High School about her experience as an astronaut and her excitement about the upcoming NASA’s Artemis program, which aims to send the first woman on the moon by 2024.

Epps told students about the training she received at NASA, as well as her previous career path. She also shared her excitement as one of 13 female astronaut candidates that could be the first woman to land on the moon.

“You never know, as long as you’re in the program. That would be fantastic…It would be otherworldly,” Epps told students, as reported by The Star Telegram.

She explained that a historic trip to the moon could help uncover more answers about the Earth and the solar system. “It can be a way point to getting to Mars. We can stop there and we refuel and go on to Mars,” Epps told Business Insider in an interview.

When she’s not researching or thinking about space, Epps’s earthly hobbies include scuba diving and reading. “Other hobbies that I have, when I am not working, include traveling, reading, and trying as many new things as I can!”

NASA has had many interesting developments and upcoming projects like Asthros and Euclid, and others underway. For astronauts currently in space, many were able to safely cast their vote from the ISS in time for the 2020 presidential election. Astronaut Kate Rubins tweeted, “From the International Space Station: I voted today — Kate Rubins.”

Epps, center, answers a question along side of NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, left, and NASA astronaut Doug Wheelock, right, during an interactive STEM discussion with students at NASA Headquarters in Washington. Photo Credit: (NASA/Joel Kowsky)

In 2016, the film, Hidden Figures, based on the book by Margot Lee Shetterly, shed light on the importance of STEAM as well as workplace discrimination, segregation, and other barriers that faced African-American female mathematicians and engineers. Many African Americans in STEM played an important role in the space program at NASA and helped shape the future of space exploration.

Representation and diverse leadership in STEM are key. The UPS recently posted a report discussing the need for more black women in STEM leadership: “Without a stronger commitment globally to diversity and inclusion in STEM, companies will continue to miss out on—or lose—talent that could bolster their business performance, and ultimately, their bottom lines.”

According to Catalyst, in 2017, 11.5 percent of science and engineering employees in the US were women of color. Currently, only 17 African-American astronauts represent NASA.

While women of color have been historically underrepresented in STEM, Epps is committed to moving the needle.

“The NASA mission has always inspired me because I have a great desire to help further our understanding of the world we live in and the universe,” she said in a NASA interview. “I pursued a career in science and technology in an effort to contribute. I also have a desire to encourage young students to pursue careers in science and help contribute because I believe everyone can help and has a part to play!”

With Epps sets to make history on the International Space Station in 2021, as well as potentially becoming the first woman to set foot on the moon, the sky’s the limit for African-American innovations in STEM from earth and beyond.

 

Geena Davis: Standing Up for Gender & STEM
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Geena Davis collage of pictures including the Diversity in STEAM Magazine Cover

By Sarah Mosqueda

Geena Davis has played several complex characters, but the actress, gender and STEM advocate, producer and model is hesitant to call them role models.

For example, take Thelma Dickinson from the iconic 1991 movie, Thelma & Louise. She was characterized as the ditzy wife of an insensitive, bullying, unfaithful carpet salesman.

But it wasn’t until after the Golden Globe and Academy Award-winning actress portrayed this role that she began to consider how women in the audience might feel about it. She also realized the limited opportunities women have to feel empowered or excited about female characters.

And when Davis became a mother, that realization hit hard.

‘If she can see it, she can be it.’

“When my daughter was a toddler, I began watching children’s TV with her, and I was stunned to notice what seemed to be a huge gender disparity in entertainment made for young kids,” says Davis, “It occurred to me that this was a very unhealthy message to send to kids in the 21st century, which led me to create the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media.”

Motivated by these imbalances, Davis founded her non-profit research organization in 2004. The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media (GDIGM) researches gender representation in media and advocates for equal representation of women. The organization works collaboratively within the entertainment industry, thanks in large part to Davis’ connections, and aims to create gender balance, foster inclusion and reduce negative stereotyping in family entertainment media.

Currently headquartered in Los Angeles, GDIGM has collected the largest body of research on gender prevalence in family entertainment, with children’s entertainment being a primary focus.

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND – OCTOBER 03: Actor Geena Davis speaks during The Power Of Inclusion Summit 2019 at Aotea Centre. (Photo by Michael Bradley/Getty Images for New Zealand Film Commission)

“My Institute has conducted numerous studies over the years showing that diverse and high-quality portrayals of women and girls are quite simply missing from children’s media,” Davis says.

Youth ages 8-18-years-old are engaging with media more than 7 hours a day, according to GDIGM. And although women and girls are 51 percent of the population, entertainment media does a poor job of reflecting that with the ratio of approximately 3:1 male to female characters.

“This has a real impact on young viewers’ ideas about themselves and the occupations they pursue,” Davis says. Disparities are most apparent in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM fields), where only one-quarter of scientists and engineers in the United States are female.

According to Davis, media plays a contributing role to the dismal numbers. She points to a 2012 GDIGM study that found low representation of female STEM characters. The study analyzed occupations in children’s media and found that, for every 15 male characters shown in STEM jobs, there was only one female character portrayed in a STEM profession.

“STEM characters were rarely featured in leading roles, and when they were, men STEM characters were moderately (but significantly) more likely than women STEM characters to be leads,” says Davis. However, when girls do see women in STEM in media, it has a significant impact.

In a 2018 study titled, “The Scully Effect,” GDIGM looked at the influence of “The X-Files’” protagonist Dana Scully on girls and women entering the STEM field.

“Nearly two-thirds of women working in STEM today say that Scully served as their personal role model and increased their confidence to excel in a male-dominated profession,” Davis says, “In other words, as we say, ‘If she can see it, she can be it.’”

An Actress & Advocate
Born Virginia Elizabeth Davis in Wareham, Mass., Davis’ mother, a teacher’s assistant, and her father, a civil engineer and church deacon, were both from small towns in Vermont. Davis also has an older brother named Danforth “Dan.”

At an early age, she became interested in music. Davis learned piano and the flute and played organ well enough as a teenager to serve as an organist at her Congregationalist church in Wareham. She went on to attend Wareham High School and was an exchange student in Sandiviken, Sweden, becoming fluent in Swedish.

Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis taking a Polaroid of themselves in a scene from the film ‘Thelma & Louise’, 1991. (Photo by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Getty Images)

It’s been said that she actually adopted the nickname, Geena, after seeing shows with the characters Cheburashka and Gena the Crocodile, which aired as a children’s segment in a national television show in Sweden in the late 1970s.

Davis attended New England College before earning her bachelor’s degree in drama from Boston University in 1979. Following her education, she served as a window mannequin for clothing retailer Ann Taylor until signing with New York’s Zoli modeling agency.

Davis made her acting debut in the 1982 film, Tootsie. In 1986, she starred in the iconic thriller, The Fly, which proved to be one of her first box office hits. While the fantasy comedy, Bettlejuice, brought her to international acclaim, it was the drama, The Accidental Tourist, in 1988 that earned her the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She cemented her leading actress status with her performance in Thelma & Louise, receiving a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress.

Later, she starred in A League of Their Own in 1992, which provide to be a critical and box office success, earning her a Golden Globe Award nomination.

Through her work with the Geena Davis Institute and focus on gender in the media, Davis has launched the annual Bentonville Film Festival and executive produced the documentary, This Changes Everything, in 2018. She also received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for all she has done to fight gender bias on and off the screen in Hollywood.

Changing Tomorrow — Today
While areas of gross gender inequality remain, Davis insists the one category where the underrepresentation of women can be fixed overnight is on screen. “The very next project somebody makes, the next movie, TV show, can be gender-balanced,” she says. Which is why the purpose of the research done by GDIGM is not to educate the public, but to take the data directly to the creators of children’s media and share it in a private, collegial way. Since its inspection, GDIGM has prompted a significant change in messaging at major networks and studios. The institute has conducted custom educational workshops and presentations for industry leaders, like the Cartoon Network, CBS, DreamWorks, FOX Feature Animation, PBS, Sesame Workshop, Universal Pictures, The Walt Disney Company and Warner Bros. The GDIGM website (seejane.org) sites its influence over gender portrayal in content like Inside Out, Hotel Transylvania, Monsters University, The Dark Crystal and DocMcStuffins.

“We are seeing a concerted effort on the part of content creators to strive for greater diversity, equity and inclusion in their stories,” Davis says, “They have embraced our data, and are applying it along with our research tools.”

Geena Davis and team at screening of “Mission Unstoppable.” Photo by Geena Davis Institute

In addition to getting data into the hands of content creators, Davis has also taken the initiative to create content herself. Davis is the Executive Producer of Mission Unstoppable on CBS. The educational television series from Litton Entertainment is hosted by Miranda Cosgrove and centers on diverse, female STEM professionals. Yet, the engagement of the show goes beyond TV. It’s a social media movement, meeting young girls in the places they’re most drawn to, such as Twitter, Instagram, TikTok and Twitch. The content ranges from meet and greets with women role models in STEM, to how scientists use hormones to be able to tell if someone is in love.

Davis says the visibility of unique, intersectional, female characters in entertainment and media is essential to challenging negative stereotypes.

“That’s why shows like Mission Unstoppable are so important,” Davis says, “Increasing media depictions of women in STEM is easy to do, and provides a big bang for the buck.”

And it would seem critics agree. Mission Unstoppable was nominated for two Daytime Emmys in 2020, including outstanding entertainment/educational series.

Davis has also helped champion an AI called, “GD-IQ: Spellcheck for Bias,” that leverages patented learning technology to analyze scripts for unconscious bias and discrimination based on gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and disabilities.

“We launched our first ML tool in 2015, GD-IQ, which uses ML along with Human Expert coding,” Davis says, “Which has now gone well beyond just measuring gender which has been used to analyze video for ads, movies and TV shows.”

Davis says her team worked to develop another tool that could be used in the pre-production phase of content development in order to review and improve diversity and inclusion before content went into casting and production.

“This is how Spellcheck for Bias was developed and built utilizing some of USC Viterbi’s patented text IP, which we are currently using to analyze text in scripts, books etc.,” she says, “We’re already testing it with major studios like The Walt Disney company and NBC Universal.”

BURBANK, CALIFORNIA – JUNE 22: (L-R) Dr. Erin Macdonald, Geena Davis and Mayim Bialik speak onstage during ‘The Scully Effect – I Want to Believe in STEM’ panel at AT&T SHAPE at Warner Bros. Studios. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for AT&T)

The new tool can rapidly analyze a script to determine the ratio of male and female characters and how accurately they represent the real population at large. The technology also can discern the numbers of characters who are people of color, LGBTQI, possess disabilities or belong to other groups typically underrepresented in mainstream media.

In the decade since she started GDIGM, Davis has used her influence to move the needle. And slowly but surely, the needle has moved.

In family films, the percentage of lead characters who are female has doubled from 2007 (24 percent) to 2019 (48 percent) and the percentage of leading female characters in children’s television was 42 percent in 2008; that rose to 52 percent by 2018.

“We are beyond thrilled to see one of the most important goals we set [on-screen parity] has been reached during the time we’ve been advocating for it,” Davis says.

Though she is quick to add there is still work to be done.

The Road Ahead…Doing Your Part
“When it comes to intersectionality of gender and the other dimensions, we measure such as race, LGBTQ+, age, abilities, body type…those haven’t budged yet, but we’re very confident that on-screen representation will improve significantly within the next 5 years.”

BENTONVILLE, ARKANSAS – MAY 07: Geena Davis speaks at the Bentonville Film Fest at the Filmmakers retreat. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for Bentonville Film Festival)

As a viewer, Davis says there is actually a lot you can do to encourage programming that is diverse, equitable and inclusive.
“Viewers can use the power of their voice via social media to support and challenge what they see in media and entertainment,” says Davis, “Secondly, they can choose what they decide to watch and view with their families. Third, consumers who have children, can use their media consumption as a way to engage in a dialogue with their children around what messages they are receiving and guide them on how to interpret it.”

At the very least, Davis says we can think critically about the content we consume.

“I encourage you to think like a content creator and explore what a gender review might look like on the show you just viewed… Could a female portray a male character?” she asks, “Was the language used by girls equally empowering to that of male characters? Did the portrayal of characters bolster or shatter stereotypes?”

When we take the time to ask these questions, we will see the value of parity in programming.

“Together, we can introduce positive role models onscreen that our children can learn from and emulate in real life,” Davis says.

So, while Geena Davis’ characters are not all role models, as a champion for gender diversity, equity and inclusion in STEM-related industries, she certainly is.

NASA astronaut Kate Rubins returns safely to Earth after six months in space
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NASA astronaut Kate Rubins is helped out of the Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft

BY TORI B. POWELL,

NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, 42, safely returned to Earth on Saturday after living aboard the International Space Station for six months, according to NASA. Rubins, along with Russian cosmonauts Sergey Kud-Sverchkov and Sergey Ryzhikov, arrived southeast of the town Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, in a parachute landing at 10:55 a.m. local time.

The crew served as Expedition 63-64 and began their mission on October 14 last year.

Rubins became the first person to ever sequence DNA in outer space on her first spaceflight, Expedition 48/49 in 2016. During her latest 185-day mission, Rubins conducted “hundreds of hours” of International Space Station research, including work on the Cardinal Heart experiment which studies the effects of gravity and cardiovascular cells at the cellular and tissue levels and could further knowledge of heart problems on Earth, NASA reported. Her research also included studying DNA sequencing and microbiology studies.

Click here to read the full article on CBS News.

WITI Summit, June 22-24, VIRTUAL
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The WITI logo

The WITI Summit, June 22-24 in a VIRTUAL form, is the premier global event for women in technology. Executives, entrepreneurs and technology thought leaders from around the world convene online to build and expand strong connections in a welcoming environment and to foster women’s success in all technology related fields and organizations. 3,000+ attendees from 6 continents. 

 

Use code CBPART21 for $100 discount off the prevailing cost of a full 3-day pass. 

 

Click Here 

Fermilab Experiment Hints at New Fundamental Force of Nature
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nad over head photo of Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois

By Ryan Whitwam

Scientists working at Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois have made some of the most important discoveries in physics over the years, including the existence of the top quark and characterizing the neutrino. Now, the team working on Fermilab’s Muon g−2 experiment has reported a tantalizing hint of a new type of physics, according to the BBC. If confirmed, this would become the fifth known fundamental force in the universe.

Our current understanding of particle physics is called the Standard Model, which we know is an incomplete picture of the universe. Concepts like the Higgs boson and dark energy don’t fully integrate with the Standard Model, and the Muon g−2 might eventually help us understand why. The key to that breakthrough could be the behavior of the muon, a subatomic particle similar to an electron. The muon has a negative charge, but it’s much more massive. So, it spins like a magnet, which is what points to a possible new branch of physics.

PHOTO: ExtremeTech

The roots of the Muon g−2 experiment go back to work done at CERN in the late 1950s. However, the instruments available at the time were too imprecise to accurately measure the “g-factor” of the muon, which describes its rate of gyration. The Standard Model predicts that muons wobble in a certain way, but the 14-meter magnetic accelerator at the heart of Muon g−2 shows that muons have a different g-factor. That might not sound significant, but even a tiny “anomalous magnetic dipole moment,” as scientists call it, could indicate something mysterious has affected the particles.

We currently know of four fundamental forces: gravity, electromagnetism, the strong force (nuclear cohesion), and the weak force (radioactive decay). Whatever is causing muons to misbehave in Muon g−2 could be a fifth force, but we don’t know what it is. Even if the team can confirm the result, we won’t necessarily know what this new force of nature does aside from perturbing muons. That part will take much more work. Theoretical physicists have speculated that the new force could be associated with an undiscovered subatomic particle like the Z-prime boson or leptoquark.

Read the full article at ExtremeTech.

Will.i.am reveals his $299 face mask featuring dual fans, ANC headphones, Bluetooth, and more
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Will.i.am wearing the technology powered face mask with a blue beanie on

By Rob Thubron, TechSpot

What just happened? Will.i.am, best known as the frontman for the Black Eyed Peas, has made several pushes into the world of technology—not all of them successful. But the rapper hasn’t been put off by a few past failures. His latest project is a tech-packed face mask that features everything from noise-canceling headphones to Bluetooth connectivity. It’s also a lot more expensive than most masks: $299.
Created through a partnership with Honeywell, the Xupermask (pronounced “Super mask”) features dual three-speed fans and HEPA filters. That’s the same setup found on LG’s equally Cyberpunk 2077-looking PuriCare Wearable Air Purifier mask.

As Will.i.am was involved in the Xupermask’s creation, it has built-in active noise-canceling headphones for enjoying your tunes while looking like a Fallout character. There’s also a microphone, Bluetooth 5.0, and a magnetic earbud docking system.

Taking a leaf from Razer’s Project Hazel, the Xupermask boasts LED day glow lights, though they’re not of the RGB variety, as is the case with the PC accessory maker’s product. You also get 7-hour battery life.

Click here to read the full article on TechSpot.

Partnership Aims to Engage 1 Million Girls in STEM Opportunities
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young girl looking through microscope in science class

The Intel Foundation and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation have joined STEM Next Opportunity Fund and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation to launch the Million Girls Moonshot.

The effort is designed to engage one million school-age girls in the U.S. in STEM learning opportunities over the next five years. The organizations will provide grant funding and in-kind resources to Mott-funded afterschool networks in all 50 states to increase access to hands-on, immersive STEM learning experiences.

“The Million Girls Moonshot will help girls from diverse backgrounds develop this same engineering mindset, and I’m thrilled at the way it continues the legacy of Intel’s founders and their passion for advancing STEM,” said Dr. Penny Noyce, founding board chair, STEM Next Opportunity Fund.

Ridgway White, president and CEO of the Mott Foundation, added, “We’re delighted that the Intel and Moore Foundations will join us in an effort to promote gender equity by empowering girls through STEM learning opportunities.”

Just as the original moonshot united the nation behind a common goal and dramatically advanced scientific achievement, the Million Girls Moonshot aims to create a national movement to change the trajectory of women and girls in STEM. Led by STEM Next Opportunity Fund, the program will tap a wide range of funding and programmatic partners, including NASA, Qualcomm Incorporated, Technovation, National Girls Collaborative Project, CSforALL, JFF, Techbridge Girls, STEMconnector and Lyda Hill Philanthropies.

“Every girl deserves access to high-quality education to achieve their dream career, regardless of their ZIP code or family’s socioeconomic status,” said Gabriela A. Gonzalez, deputy director, Intel Foundation. “The powerful synergies from collaborating with other organizations who share these values achieve a larger collective social impact to advance gender equity and parity in STEM fields, and more important, elevate girls’ future prospects for a better quality of life.”

Closing the Gender Gap in STEM is Critical for Our Nation’s Future

Women make up half of the total U.S. college-educated workforce, but are vastly underrepresented in STEM fields, comprising just 16 percent of engineers. Black and Latina women have even less representation, at approximately two percent each. With economic projections pointing to a need for one million more STEM professionals than the country will produce at its current rate over the next decade, engaging and keeping more girls in STEM pursuits will be critically important for solving our nation’s most pressing challenges.

“We’re happy to be inaugural partners in the Million Girls Moonshot and its all-hands-on-deck effort to break down the systemic barriers that exist for girls in STEM,” said Janet Coffey, Ph.D., program director, Science, for the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. “This generation of young people will be the COVID-19 generation. By fostering an engineering mindset and a spirit of scientific exploration, curiosity, and discovery, we can empower them to build a better world.”

Afterschool Programs are Important for Engaging, Keeping Girls in STEM

Over the past several decades, afterschool and out-of-school programs have developed expertise in providing the kind of immersive, hands-on learning experiences that are critical to helping students gain fluency in STEM subjects. This school year, the opportunity is even greater as students and families face many more hours outside of the traditional classroom. From running STEM activities virtually and distributing STEM kits to students, to offering small-group, in-person services on remote school days and during traditional afterschool hours, afterschool programs have stepped up to keep students engaged and learning. The potential for impact is enormous: The nation’s 100,000 afterschool programs serve more than 10 million young people.

To support programs as they pivot to meet students’ needs, the Million Girls Moonshot will provide afterschool networks with technical assistance, educational resources, access to Intel’s She Will Connect partners and mentorship from STEM experts, including Intel employee volunteers. The initiative leverages more than $300 million in investments made by the Mott Foundation in the past two decades to advance afterschool programs and systems, including the development of afterschool networks in all 50 states, as well as Mizzen by Mott, an app that provides afterschool educators free access to high-quality content.

The Million Girls Moonshot welcomes a diverse group of cross-sector partners to join in expanding its reach, sustainability and impact. Learn more at MillionGirlsMoonshot.org.

Source: STEM Next Opportunity Fund

Women Of Color Lead Gender Equality In STEM Education
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Dr. Karidia Diallo in a laboratory setting at the CDC, in front of an ABI DNA Analyzer

By Rhett Power, Forbes

The numbers are encouraging but there is more work to do.

Latina women have closed the gender gap in technical college-entrance exams, and African American women outnumber men 3-to-2 in those exams. After decades of research showcasing women of color behind both men of color and White women, new UC Berkeley research highlights encouraging data in which women of color are making progress in STEM education.

The UC Berkeley analysis showcased these two groundbreaking trends utilizing Advanced-Placement (AP) college-entrance exams in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Among African American students, AP STEM exams taken by women represented the overwhelming majority over men. Among Latinx students, the number of men and women was roughly equal; nationally, women took 66,382exams and, men took 66,703 exams per year.

The research, conducted by Nobel-prize-winning author Dr. Daniel Kammen, Dr. Caroline Harper, and researcher Vanessa Thompson, presents patterns that are surprising given that women of color have continued to be alarmingly underrepresented in many STEM fields. Both of these trends of gender equality showcase strengths among African American and Latinx AP students that could translate to insights for increased gender equity in other STEM contexts.

I sat down with Dr. Caroline Harper and Vanessa Thompson recently to discuss their work and findings. Watch full interview here.

Rhett Power: Can you tell us about some of the exciting results from your research, some of the highlights you think are important?

Vanessa Thompson: “We’ve found that Latina women have closed the gender gap in technical college entrance exams, and African American women outnumber African American men three to two in those same exams.

“It’s really interesting because when we look into the pipeline, it can indicate some larger trends later down the road. After decades of research showing women of color behind, this shows a context that counters the traditional narrative, which is interesting. The reason that we look at research like this is that increased women and minorities in STEM is correlated with having more revenue and productivity in the workplace, so it’s important to understand what the numbers are telling us.”

Power: Dr. Harper, I want to ask you. You’ve done a lot of work on racial and gender equity. Why is diversity in STEM crucial, and what makes you encouraged by this report and by this research?

Dr. Caroline Harper: “Thank you, It’s all about perspectives and experiences, and how we see problems, and how we look to solving those problems or coming up with solutions that last sustainably across all communities. If we talk about diversity, we’re really talking about finding ways to really reach a new consensus but also finding new ways to actually deal with real problems, like as we see right now, the things that are happening in Texas, the recent freeze that happened. Issues like climate change are impacting communities of color, and those same people can provide solutions. Or if with talk about the pandemic. It’s a woman of color who leads the research on the vaccination, so we’re talking about finding ways to address new challenges, and that’s why diversity matters. Women of color can help find solutions to our biggest problems and bring different experiences and perspectives to that work.”

Power: I understand that advanced placement courses (AP) in high school have become more broadly available in the country? Is that why we see this increase, or is it because there’s more of a focus on it? Are we counseling kids better these days? What do you attribute to this increase of women of color in STEM fields?

Thompson: “The answer is it’s both demand and supply when it comes to, particularly, AP. AP’s been working to make their tests more inclusive and offer them at more high schools, so we see an increased supply and increased ability to take AP exams. We also see higher demand as universities increasingly want to see AP exams on an entrance appilications.”

Power: Is there a correlation between your AP courses’ grades versus what you major in in college and what you choose career-wise?

Thompson: “Yeah, so the confidence related to a higher score in the AP exam increases your chances that you’ll major in that subject up to five percent, so that becomes interesting, especially with some of the more common majors like biology and computer science. If you get a higher score in those, you’re much more likely to pursue them later in life.”

Power: Dr. Harper, when you get to college, and you have that STEM AP background, what are the colleges doing differently nowadays than maybe they were before? Are we better at getting young people through college and helping place people in jobs?

Dr. Harper: “For students, particularly students of color, to feel successful and comfortable in those spaces, it helps to have faces that look like them, that teach to their learning styles, that teach in ways in which resonate on how they form solutions, so it’s representation in the classroom that matters. The other piece that we are doing is making sure the students are prepared and have the opportunity to develop relationships so that not only are they doing their classwork, but they’re also finding fellowships, internships with large scale employers, major industries that really give them the space to translate what they learned in the classroom into the workforce.”

Power: Dr. Harper, How does this research counter the traditional narrative of women of color in STEM?

Dr. Harper: “Great question; the reason is that people don’t talk about it very much. We’ve always assumed that women of color weren’t interested in STEM or didn’t have the aptitude when that’s not true. The talent is there. We know for a fact that girls generally show a stronger aptitude for STEM fields in middle school, much more than boys. Then of course, social things happen where they become uncomfortable or feel like an outlier, and nobody wants to be that person, so they pursue something different.”

“By the time you get to AP, though, what we find is that the more increase in access because AP hasn’t been traditionally available in schools of color so this push for the research and advocacy to get more of those tests available to prepare students has also helped this conversation.”

As you talk about this narrative, you now are seeing this be changed because those AP test scores substantiate it, but you know, the idea of women being interested in it, we see on the big screen, with Hidden Figures, and this helps the momentum for tech and STEM.”

“I’m hoping to see that there is an increase in confidence of black women in particular, that we are talking about, the reality is that from 1995 to 2004, 46% of black women who pursued STEM degrees came from HBCUs. So I hope that this research will give some credence to the kind of work you are doing to get to the stage where they can compete. Still, I hope that this proves that these people are very well qualified, with unbelievable experiences, and capable of doing the work. I’m hoping to see more doors open in corporate America.”

Power: With the decline of young men going to college, it seems to me that in five or ten years, there are going to be more women in the workplace. It’s going to force some of this change, and some of the systemic change, culture change, in organizations, it’s going to kind of force it, isn’t it?

Thompson: “I think that one of the challenges that we see going forward, though, is who’s going to be hired and promoted? We see many women at the bottom of organizations, which is true with almost every STEM profession and profession in general. In test, women are outscoring men in math, science, and technology in general. Still, when we go to high-performing spaces like advanced placement or STS, a big science competition that’s very competitive, the number of women drops significantly. Then when we choose the finalists for STS, the number of women drops even further.”

“I think that there needs to be a societal culture change. Even though we’re seeing more women go to college, that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re going to see more women CEOs, so I think there needs to be a lot of work done to help women and women of color to get into the C-suite.”

Power: You’ve spent a lot of time on this research. What are you encouraged by, and what worries you the most? And bring out your crystal ball and say, “This is what I think we’re going to see in a few years from this.”

Click here to read the full article on Forbes.

NASA’s Europa Clipper Builds Hardware, Moves Toward Assembly
LinkedIn
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech With an internal global ocean twice the size of Earth’s oceans combined, Jupiter’s moon Europa carries the potential for conditions suitable for life. But the frigid temperatures and the nonstop pummeling of the surface from Jupiter’s radiation make it a tricky target to explore: Mission engineers and scientists must design a spacecraft hardy enough to withstand the radiation yet sensitive enough to gather the science needed to investigate Europa’s environment. The Europa Clipper orbiter will swoop around Jupiter on an elliptical path, dipping close to the moon on each flyby to conduct detailed reconnaissance. The science includes gathering measurements of the internal ocean, mapping the surface composition and its geology, and hunting for plumes of water vapor that may be venting from the icy crust. Engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory test an engineering model of a high-frequency (HF) radar antenna Engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory test an engineering model of a high-frequency (HF) radar antenna that makes up part of NASA's Europa Clipper radar instrument on Dec. 17, 2019. The 59-foot-long (18-meter-long) antenna is held straight by a cross bar on the tower at right. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech Development of the spacecraft is progressing well, based on the intense examination NASA recently completed. The Critical Design Review conducted a deep dive into the specifics of the plans for all of the science instruments – from cameras to antennas – and flight subsystems, including propulsion,

Jupiter’s moon Europa may have the potential to harbor life. The spacecraft will use multiple flybys of the moon to investigate the habitability of this ocean world.

Europa Clipper, NASA’s upcoming flagship mission to the outer solar system, has passed a significant milestone, completing its Critical Design Review. During the review, experts examined the detailed design of the spacecraft to ensure that it is ready to complete construction. The mission is now able to complete hardware fabrication and testing, and move toward the assembly and testing of the spacecraft and its payload of sophisticated science instruments.

PHOTO: NASA/JPL-Caltech

With an internal global ocean twice the size of Earth’s oceans combined, Jupiter’s moon Europa carries the potential for conditions suitable for life. But the frigid temperatures and the nonstop pummeling of the surface from Jupiter’s radiation make it a tricky target to explore: Mission engineers and scientists must design a spacecraft hardy enough to withstand the radiation yet sensitive enough to gather the science needed to investigate Europa’s environment.

The Europa Clipper orbiter will swoop around Jupiter on an elliptical path, dipping close to the moon on each flyby to conduct detailed reconnaissance. The science includes gathering measurements of the internal ocean, mapping the surface composition and its geology, and hunting for plumes of water vapor that may be venting from the icy crust.
Development of the spacecraft is progressing well, based on the intense examination NASA recently completed. The Critical Design Review conducted a deep dive into the specifics of the plans for all of the science instruments – from cameras to antennas – and flight subsystems, including propulsion, power, avionics, and the flight computer.

“We showed that our project system design is strong,” said Europa Clipper Project Manager Jan Chodas of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “Our plans for completing the development and integration of the individual pieces hold together, and the system as a whole will function as designed to gather the science measurements we need to explore the potential habitability of Europa.”
Development of the spacecraft is progressing well, based on the intense examination NASA recently completed. The Critical Design Review conducted a deep dive into the specifics of the plans for all of the science instruments – from cameras to antennas – and flight subsystems, including propulsion, power, avionics, and the flight computer.

“We showed that our project system design is strong,” said Europa Clipper Project Manager Jan Chodas of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “Our plans for completing the development and integration of the individual pieces hold together, and the system as a whole will function as designed to gather the science measurements we need to explore the potential habitability of Europa.”

Read the full article at NASA.

This Awesome STEM Toy Teaches Coding for Kids Without Using Screens
LinkedIn
Student playing on the floor with the Mochi Adventure game

by FUTURISM CREATIVE

Learn With Mochi gives kids the basics of computer programming in a playful, hands-on way.

Everyone wants the best education possible for their kids. But it’s hard to find enriching activities that don’t involve setting them in front of yet another screen. And teaching them the fundamentals of STEM seems nearly impossible when you’re limiting screen time. And according to data from Engineering For Kids, STEM workers earn 26-percent more than people without a STEM background. So if you want to give your young children a competitive edge without adding more screen time, you need to know about Learn With Mochi, an award-winning screen-free game that teaches coding for kids ages three-to-nine.

With Learn With Mochi, kids learn the basics of computer programming in a playful, hands-on way as they explore STEM subjects without the use of addictive screen time. That’s because Mochi is your child’s first screenless computer. It takes computer-programming commands, executes functions, and gives audio feedback in a low-pressure, fun way.

Every Mochi Aventure Kit includes these basic components: the Mochi Computer (where kids place the coding commands or blocks), coding blocks, Mochi Bear (a stuffed animal), Lego-compatible Rover, and the play mat (the environment that Mochi is exploring). Together these parts allow your child to absorb the fundamentals of coding without exposing them to more screen time than necessary.

Mochi has three Adventure Packs to choose from. The starter pack, Mochi Basic 1 Book Adventure Pack, covers everything your child will need to grasp the fundamentals of STEM education. This includes Mochi bear, Lego-compatible Rover, Programming board with 12 coding blocks, and Mochi’s Planets Story set (includes story map). Plus, every Mochi kit comes with a SD card that provides unique songs, music, and even audio of the Mochi books.

However, if you’re little one needs a more in-depth kit to help further their STEM education, try the Mochi Starter 4 Book Adventure Pack. The 4 Book Adventure Pack has everything the 1 Book Adventure Pack does, but also incorporates Mochi’s 4 Story Adventure Sets (Planets, Animals, Earth and Biology). This 4-book instructional pack will guide your children on adventures in a variety of STEM subjects, not only educating them, but also stimulating their natural curiosity.

Click here to read the full article on Futurism.

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Upcoming Events

  1. Commercial UAV Expo Americas, Las Vegas
    September 7, 2021 - September 9, 2021
  2. WiCyS 2021 Conference
    September 8, 2021 @ 8:00 am - September 10, 2021 @ 5:00 pm
  3. 2021 ERG & Council Conference
    September 15, 2021 - September 17, 2021
  4. Wonder Women Tech
    October 26, 2021 - October 29, 2021
  5. HACU’s 35th Annual Conference
    October 30, 2021 - November 1, 2021
  6. AEC Next Technology Expo & Conference, International Lidar Mapping Forum, and SPAR 3D Expo & Conference
    February 6, 2022 - February 8, 2022