The Tech Interactive is an IF/THEN Gender Equity Grant recipient. Twenty-six ASTC-member museums received funding to launch projects aimed at increasing the representation of women and gender minorities in STEM across their museums’ content. This grant program is supported by the IF/THEN Initiative, a national effort sponsored by Lyda Hill Philanthropies to inspire young girls to pursue STEM careers while creating a culture shift in how the world perceives women in STEM.
The Tech Interactive, located in San Jose, California, has always strived to fulfill its mission to “inspire the innovator in everyone.” As we expand our reach through online content, we continue to explore new ways to do this especially for the communities that are underrepresented within the STEM fields such as gender minorities. While the facilitators of hands-on activities within the Tech Interactive may find themselves in a position to engage visitors and act as STEM role models, we are still experimenting with ways to provide a similar level of engagement to those who may not be able to visit us in person.
Our IF/THEN Gender Equity Grant project helped us develop Get in the Game, a new virtual activity hosted on our Tech at Home online platform. In this activity, participants explore how they can use computational thinking and problem-solving skills to plan out and design their very own board game. The activity is facilitated through six pre-recorded videos featuring a Tech Interactive host, who outlines each step of the activity and a STEM professional, who delves deeper into the skills participants learn and how they can be applied to solve real world problems.
This project has allowed our team to experiment with incorporating a STEM professional as another facilitator in the activity videos and has helped us to be intentional in highlighting a STEM professional who identifies as a gender minority. We hope to help participants of underrepresented groups build their STEM identity by providing them with an opportunity to see themselves represented in STEM fields.
We had the pleasure of working with Dr. Siobahn Day Grady, assistant professor at North Carolina Central University and AAAS IF/THEN Ambassador. While Get in the Game is an “unplugged” activity—meaning it explores concepts usually associated with programming and computer science without the use of a computer—Dr. Grady’s engagement allows students to connect the skills they use during this playfully themed activity with real-world problem-solving and a possible STEM career in computer science. Throughout the six activity videos, participants get to know Dr. Grady and her work as she helps them design their own board games and explains how she applies computational thinking skills as a computer scientist researching autonomous vehicles.
Though gender representation is already a priority at The Tech, our IF/THEN grant project has helped our organization to look more intentionally at how we reach people in underrepresented groups. The project has increased internal awareness and further highlighted the importance of this work. It will remain a priority for us as we continue to develop more content for our community and online platform.
This post was contributed by Michaela Yamashita, Experience Development Specialist at the Tech Interactive in San Jose, California.