MSSEF board member and award-winning meteorologist Mish Michaels collaborated with Gerhard Sonnert and Philip Sadler, both of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, on an article that explores the relationship between gender and the science fair experience. Entitled, “Gender Aspects of Participation, Support, and Success in a State Science Fair,” the paper considers data from student participation in the 2009 Massachusetts State Science & Engineering Fair, investigating the role that gender played in students’ participation, choice of science field, award of prizes, and mentioning inspiring teachers.
Among the findings:
- Rather than being under-represented at this science fair, girls were were slightly overrepresented, making up 62% of 2009′s Massachusetts state high school fair participants.
- Girls exhibited a strong preference for the life sciences.
- A gender-matched student–teacher pair held no advantage when it came to outcomes.
The article has been published in “School Science and Mathematics,” the international journal of the School Science and Mathematics Association.
The Cambridge-based non-profit Science Club for Girls has been partnering with the Boys and Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster to bring hands-on science activities to girls grades 2-7 at their club. A recent grant from the American Association of University Women has allowed Science Club for Girls, along with their partner, Aisling O’Connor, a chemistry professor at Fitchburg State University (FSU) to continue this vital program.
For ten weeks each semester, the girls spend one afternoon a week with a female science or engineering student from FSU. This not only gives them important hands-on science experience, but time with female scientist role models.
~ Shannon Morey
In 65 countries, 15-year-old girls performed better than their male peers on a science test given by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. In the United States, however, boys outperformed girls. What’s the disconnect in America? Researchers think that stereotypes may have something to do with it.
“We see that very early in childhood — around age 4 — gender roles in occupations appear to be formed,” said Christianne Corbett, co-author of the 2010 report, Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. “Women are less likely to go into science careers, although they are clearly capable of succeeding.” Countries like Asia and the Middle East, where a higher percentage of women go into the sciences, don’t seem to have the same cultural forces at play.
Read on nytimes.com
We already knew that the demand for STEM graduates was on the rise to meet the demands of a changing economy, but recently the White House put a big number on how critical the demand really is.
Last week, the Obama Administration designated the effort to increase the number of undergrads with degrees in STEM fields as a Cross-Agency Priority goal. According to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, this means that the effort is, “one of a limited number of such articulated goals designed to focus cross-agency coordination and encourage sharing of best practices among agencies with complementary missions.”
Initially, at least, the CAP goal to increase STEM graduates will focus on five “areas of opportunity”:
- improving STEM teaching and attracting students to STEM courses;
- offering meaningful opportunities for students to engage in STEM research early in their college careers;
- improving mathematics preparation so that students enter college with adequate math skill to tackle science classes;
- supporting women and minorities in STEM education;
- identifying and supporting educational innovation.
See on www.whitehouse.gov
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has appointed Dr. Pendred “Penny” Noyce to Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
“Dr. Noyce’s lifelong experience and commitment to education in Massachusetts makes her an excellent addition to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education,” said Governor Patrick. “I am confident she will continue to be a great partner in our efforts to close the achievement gap and ensure that all of our students are prepared for success, and I thank her for her willingness to serve in this capacity.”
A longtime supporter of the Massachusetts State Science & Engineering Fair (MSSEF) through the Noyce Foundation, which she helped establish, Dr. Noyce is a former doctor of internal medicine. The daughter of Robert Noyce, co-inventor of the integrated circuit and co-founder of Intel, Dr. Noyce earned a degree in biochemistry at Harvard and a medical degree at Stanford. With Barnas Monteith, Vice Chairman of the MSSEF board of directors, Dr. Noyce founded Tumblehome Learning, a company that provides tools for students to become inspired to learn more about the natural and man-made worlds around them.
“I’m honored and excited to serve the children of Massachusetts in this new capacity,” Dr. Noyce said. “I hope to learn a great deal as well as to share what I’ve learned in twenty years of foundation work trying to improve public education, especially in math and science.”
See on www.mass.gov
At the National Urban League Conference in New Orleans last month, President Obama announced an initiative geared toward improving the education of African-American students. The goal of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans is to close the achievement gap between black and white students — a goal that is particularly significant withing the STEM education realm. The initiative should have an impact on STEM education for African-American students in several ways, not the least of which is exposing them to the sciences, math, and engineering at a younger age. For more ways in which President Obama’s initiative promises to brighten the STEM education outlook for African Americans, read this post in Black Enterprise: www.blackenterprise.com
Brittany Wenger, a 17-year-old science whiz from Florida, has taken the Google Science Fair’s top prize with her invention of an artificial brain with an uncanny ability to diagnose breast cancer. “I taught the computer how to diagnose breast cancer,” Brittany said. “And this is really important because currently the least invasive form of biopsy is actually the least conclusive, so a lot of doctors can’t use them.”
Brittany’s artificial neural network is a computer program coded to do turbo-charged brain-like thinking, in this case, with the power to detect complex patterns. She built it with Java, deployed it in the cloud, and ran more than 7 million trials. The accuracy of artificial neural networks improves with use. Brittany brought her project to the point of having a greater than 99 percent sensitivity to malignancy. “It will require a little bit of coding and tweaking, but it would be very easy to adapt it so it could diagnose other types of cancer and potentially other medical problems,” Brittany said.
See on www.futureoftech.msnbc.msn.com
Science has lost one of its brightest stars, as trailblazing astronaut Sally Ride died peacefully yesterday at the age of 61.
Becoming a household name in 1983 as the first woman to fly in space, Sally later championed the cause of inspiring young children — girls, in particular — to pursue their interests in science. She founded Sally Ride Science, a science education company dedicated to supporting girls’ and boys’ STEM interests. The company’s school programs, classroom materials, and teacher trainings aim to “bring science to life to show kids that science is creative, collaborative, fascinating, and fun.” Programs include the Sally Ride Science Academy, Science Festivals, and Science Camps.
Sally Ride’s brilliance, strength, and integrity make her an inspirational role model for new generations of scientists.
See on www.sallyridescience.com
Here’s a novel idea: a dollhouse complete with assembly-required furniture and working circuit boards. The goal, of course, is to reach girls where they live, so to speak, and encourage an early interest in math and science. The project, called “Roominate,” is the brain child of three women who met as master’s students at Stanford University. Noting the significant gender imbalance in their classes, Alice Brooks, Bettina Chen, and Jennifer Kessler cast their minds back to their own childhoods — and the gender-neutral toys that entertained them. Alice Brooks’ father gave her a saw, for example.
The trio launched a Kickstarter campaign, which has raised more than $85,000, far surpassing the $25,000 funding goal they had set. Look for Roominate soon for your future scientist in museums and online!
See on www.nytimes.com
The University of Maryland Baltimore County is a STEM machine, due to the vision and leadership of Freeman Hrabowski. Be sure to check out this great “60 Minutes” segment about Hrabowski and his success at making UMBC a powerhouse in the sciences.