On Dec. 11, IGNITE participated in the STEM Without Boundaries, Manhattan Chapter Virtual STEM Night! Girls and non-binary students from elementary through high school joined in to meet two amazing STEM professionals during an IGNITE Show-and-Tell and Mini Panel.
The event kicked off with an introduction to IGNITE and women in STEM. Students heard that STEM is everywhere, from phones and computers to video games, medicine, music, and movies, or making buildings, rocket ships, or roller coasters!
The first speaker was Grace Roberts, an Environmental Scientist, which is a type of biologist, and also a Diver at WSP. Grace shared that when she was young, she liked being alone, taking walks in nature and having quiet time. Being in the water always uplifted her, and when she was 12 her mom got her scuba certified. As she got older, she realized that she could make water, swimming, and diving part of her career! Growing up, Grace struggled not believing in herself and feeling like everyone in her family was smarter than her. She now realizes that she is smart and capable and has learned to overcome negative self-talk–though she admitted she still deals with imposter syndrome!
Grace was dressed in her dive suit and showed off the dive locker where they keep all their gear and the boats they use on the water. Her “big and bulky” dry suit allows her to wear winter clothes underneath to stay warm while she’s diving in the Puget Sound.
Grace also showed off their dive helmets, which weigh 35 pounds each–half of what one of the attending students weighed!
Next to share was Harveen Kathuria, a Product Manager at Tableau, who has been in the software development field for over a decade. Harveen has 9-year-old twins, and she loves sharing about her career journey with her kids. As a 9-year-old herself, Harveen said she enjoyed drawing, painting, and making cartoons. Her introduction to computer programming came in 8th or 9th grade, and she loved the idea of building something on her own. Now in software development, she gets to build things like apps and websites that lots of other people use!
One thing Harveen enjoys about her job is being able to travel and meet people from all over the world. While working at Microsoft, she went to China to work on a project. She showed off a warrior princess figurine the team gave her as a gift!
She also shared other gifts she’s received throughout her career, including an original iPod (so big!), an original iPhone (so small!), and a drawing of Minnie Mouse, her favorite Disney character, from her time working at Disney.
Lastly, Harveen gave a demo of a Disney app she helped create, which helps people visiting Disney World get directions and navigate. Her team then went to Disney World to troubleshoot issues like when a path took you over water! Harveen loves that she gets to be very creative in her work. She also shared her “work uniform,” a Tableau t-shirt and blazer, which is much more comfortable than Grace’s!
After hearing from the speakers, the students got to ask questions. One asked Grace, what’s the most interesting thing you’ve found in the ocean? While diving off the coast of Louisiana, Grace said she saw a stingray that was so big it could wrap around a school bus! Some scientists make it their job to watch animals and study their weird behaviors.
Students also wanted to know what classes they could take to learn more about these subjects and jobs. Grace recommended sciences like biology, chemistry, natural and environmental sciences. Harveen said that a math and science foundation is important, and encouraged girls to learn a coding language and take coding classes, and even play Minecraft! Both speakers agreed that students should take advantage of any opportunities to build foundational skills and learn and explore to see what interests you.
Thank you to STEM Without Boundaries for welcoming IGNITE to STEM night and to the students who attended! And a huge THANK YOU to Grace Roberts and Harveen Kathuria for sharing your stories, knowledge, and all about your cool jobs to inspire girls in STEM!
After attending this event:
Here’s what the students thought of the event:
“I was inspired to learn more. I enjoyed how friendly the volunteers were and all the fun stuff they taught us.” – 6th grade
“I liked learning about Engineering.” – 3rd grade
“It inspired me to be a scientist and discover new things. Thank you!”