StemBox Creator Hopes To Attract More Girls Into STEM Fields

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By Karen Valenzuela, @VictoriaNoir89

Kina McAllister spends her days at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, toiling away in a lab that researches gene therapies for various diseases. But it wasn’t easy getting to where she is, especially being a woman in a field in which women are dismally under-represented. In fact, most STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) fields are typically male dominated.

Whether it’s a lack of interest or a lack of equal opportunity that causes women to avoid STEM fields, McAllister has taken it upon herself to introduce girls at a young age into the world of STEM through an exciting and educational hands-on approach.

STEMBOX TNM PIC 1

Instead of makeup kits, baking kits, or soap kits—things that I had zero interest in as a little girl even though they were all the rage—girls ranging in ages of 7-13 who subscribe to StemBox will receive a box in the mail that includes not just the tools to participate in a legitimate science experiment, but also a video which McAllister hopes will dismantle the preconceived notions girls might have about those fields and the people who work in them. The video will include two parts: 1) a detailed lesson from a female STEM professional about her particular field, and 2) a Q&A with said professional that will help viewers relate to the woman on a personal level.

The videos show girls what it’s like to actually work in these different STEM professions, whether it’s in a lab or in some other setting – like out in nature, for instance. According to the StemBox Kickstarter site (which has officially passed its $15,000 goal in less than a month), the “videos are instrumental in exposing girls to female role models in science and showing them that being involved in STEM isn’t a purely academic trajectory.”

For example, being involved in STEM doesn’t require a PhD in neuroscience. Nor does it require being the valedictorian in your high school class. There are numerous jobs that deal with STEM, such as certain jobs in the entertainment industry.

Which brings us to another point McAllister makes on the StemBox official website. My generation grew up with Carl Sagan’s Cosmos and Bill Nye’s television show. In those days, seeing the teacher roll out the clunky and rickety TV stand meant we got to sit back and watch a little Bill Nye the Science Guy instead of having to do real work. It was the best feeling! And now we have Neil deGrasse Tyson to look up to, as well.

Now try to come up with a popular female figure in the STEM world. It’s a lot harder, isn’t it? Jane Goodall comes to mind, but that’s one woman compared to a massive list of men. This is one major issue when it comes to trying to make STEM fields attractive to young girls. Society has not been exposed to real women in these fields, whether on the Internet or on TV. Girls need to see women in STEM fields before they can feel confident enough to pursue a STEM career themselves. McAllister and her team hope to counteract this trend of under-exposure and attract more young girls into these fields.

The boxes themselves are completely gender neutral, in order to make them marketable to girls of all tastes. “It’s not up to me to define what girls like,” McAllister said in an interview with MTV News. “So I think presenting them with pure science is the best way to go.”

This might just be the beginning of a change in the tide, the balancing out of gender representation in male dominated STEM fields. It’s a necessary change, and it’s certainly overdue.

One question remains: Can an aspiring writer, say, in her mid-twenties still subscribe to StemBox? I’m asking for a friend.

Check out the StemBox Kickstarter for more information! And if you’re feeling great about this project, you can even donate a StemBox to a girl who might otherwise have limited access to STEM!

Science rules!


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