Top 5 Ways to Empower Girls in STEM

By now, most people are aware of how wide the gender gap in STEM has become, and if you’re one of the more woke people, you understand that this issue is pervasive and begins as early as third grade for girls. In case you haven’t been clued in – yes, it’s true, women are a minority in STEM careers. Women make up 48% of the American workforce and with that logic, it would stand to reason that women would make up 48% of STEM fields. But I wouldn’t be writing this article if that were the case. No, dear reader, women do not make up 48% of STEM careers, they make up 24% of them. Indeed, some STEM fields, such as biology, see higher numbers of women, but it’s worth bearing in mind that quantity does not mean equality. For example the most prestigious award given out to scientists, the Nobel Prize, has notoriously honored pitiful numbers of women. 203 Nobel Prizes have been distributed to physicists but only 2 of those physicists were women. 211 prizes have been awarded in medicine and physiology but only 12 of those recipients were women. So you catch my drift.

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We would be doing a disservice if we didn’t remind you of the Nobel Prize awarded to Watson & Crick based on Franklin’s findings relating to DNA.  Photo courtesy of Jewish Chronicle Archive

There are hundreds of studies and good people working hard to correct these numbers. The theories for the lack of women in STEM extend to sexism, lack of familial support, Queen Bee syndrome, and even the worst of the arguments inferring that women are biologically inclined to pursue non-STEM careers – eek!

What I have for you today is a solid 5-point strategy to combat these issues head on. Some of them are based in study, some in anecdote from my personal journey in science. Even if you decide not to use all of them, just one of these can make all the difference to the girls in your life.

#1 – Surround your girl with awesome science accessories

 

Let’s be real here, STEM fields require plenty of effort and hours of study that some students may be less than enthusiastic about. But can you imagine how fun it would be to be studying space and then to look down at your nails and see the Eagle Nebula at your finger tips?! For me, my infatuation with all things science started in college. Yes, my classes were difficult and sometimes had me down. But starting my day with my favorite caffeine molecule mug always put me in the right mindset that no matter what happens on my test that day, this is my passion. Sprinkling the wonder of science around her life can be something that continues to motivate her. Not sure where to start looking? Think Geek and Etsy have tons of fun science gear to keep your steminist intrigued. Not every science toy in her life needs to be an experiment or lesson, some just look pretty. For girls who feel like they don’t fit the stereotypes they about scientists being unworried about fashion, meeting her in the middle with science fashion is a great way to show her that yes, she belongs here and there is a place for every type of girl in STEM. There’s nothing wrong with meeting girls where there interests lie to introduce them to STEM.

#2 – Be honest about stereotypes surrounding women

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As an 8 year old, I used to become so exasperated when my mom would go off on a lecture about all the things I needed to be aware of as a woman: what people will think of me if I decide to wear a certain outfit to work or that some people don’t think women are as smart as men, etc. At times I think I even called her paranoid. But as I’ve grown up and lived on my own, there is some truth to what my mom said. People will make unfair assessments of you based on trivial stereotypes they carry, especially if you are a women or a minority, of which I am both. I’m sure this is not a conversation parents want to have with their daughters, but it is a necessary one. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. Would you prefer your daughter went through her career being paid less than men without having the slightest idea?  Wouldn’t you want her to know that this is an issue and at the very least to keep an eye on it?

#3 – Expose her to a variety of STEM topics

Sometimes girls will be gifted a science kit, for instance a chemistry kit. Perhaps they work their way through it and don’t enjoy themselves. Thus, they exclaim to their parents that they don’t enjoy science and would prefer to pursue a different field. Is the daughter wrong? Not necessarily. Sure, maybe she didn’t enjoy that kit for reasons that could pertain to quality or appropriate age level. Maybe she didn’t enjoy the kit because she doesn’t like chemistry. But does this mean that she doesn’t like science? Not yet! Science is such a vast field with all sorts of topics to study that there’s not a one-size-fits-all option for girls these days. Introduce your girls to different aspects of science as often as possible. Maybe she doesn’t enjoy chemistry, but will she enjoy building a bridge and testing it? If she hates the bridge, maybe sharks are more her game. Whatever the case is, don’t give up! There is so much to explore.

What do you do if she enjoys science but doesn’t enjoy the technical aspects of it or would prefer not to spend her career in a lab? Don’t sweat it, there are still hundreds of occupations that involve science outside of research. Did you know that Hollywood hires science writers to help them research movie plots? Or that you can be an artist who illustrates for science magazines and books? Is something on screen more her speed? The world could use so many more women in popularizing science on screen! Make sure she knows theses options exist and science blends beautifully with other fields of study as well.

#4 – Find female role models

One of the most frustrating things I’ve realized growing up is that there are no women at the level of science celebrity that Bill Nye, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and Carl Sagan have been celebrated for. Why is this? I still don’t have a great answer for this question. But what I do know is that the lack of female role models in positions of power can be seriously damaging to girls’ abilities to see themselves successfully pursuing those top level positions. Some may argue that Miss Frizzle is a great role model. Sure, she’s awesome, but are cartoon characters really our standard for girls here?

Girls need to see other women succeeding in science and enjoying it. While there may be no one woman to fill in that gap for celebrity scientist status, there are so many amazing women out there celebrating science. Online, you can find The Brain Scoop hosted by Emily Graslie, The STEMulus hosted by Stephanie Evans, and videos by The Bug Chicks to inspire your girls at home. Also look around your community and family for role models in STEM. All it takes is one person to motivate your girls to keep on going when the going gets tough.

#5 – Have fun!

shutterstock_247514995.jpgLast but not least, it is so important to chill out and really enjoy science for what it is sometimes. It’s hard enough to pass an algebra class in grade school, but wouldn’t you want your daughter to enjoy herself and make friends while she does it? It seems that these days As and 4.0s are the gold standard of success for kids. But honestly, it is just as important that kids find a passion for the science they study. The passion they develop for STEM is what will drive them to push forward in their careers, not the grueling nights spent studying alone. So don’t freak out over the occasional C on their tests, instead consider alternative ways to work on the material with your child.

What’s better than one scientist? TWO SCIENTISTS! One of the most valuable things gained from pursuing STEM fields is the friendship your daughter will find with girls that are like-minded and headed in the same direction. There is no room in STEM careers for women to fight each other for top positions, it hurts everyone. The same can be said in the classroom. Science is naturally a very competitive field, but do whatever you can to foster friendly study groups and activities outside of the classroom. The friends she makes now will greatly impact where she ends up later and some of those friendships are for life.

And there you have it! Do you already do some of these with the girls in your life? Is there a favorite tactic of yours we didn’t include in the list? Tell us in the comments!

If you’re interested in more topics like this be sure to sign up for our email list at www.mystembox.com.

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The Bug Box!

Bugs for WEB

The story behind this box goes back to over a year ago when my mom, Lisa, saw the Windows 10 commercial featuring The Bug Chicks. Sure enough my mom was calling me within minutes of seeing it, urging me to get in touch with them about partnering for a box. Admittedly I put it off for some time because I had my hands full with other projects.  However, my mom seems to have the superpower all moms have which is to ask you about the same thing every time she calls no matter what the reason for the call was in the first place. Thank goodness for moms. My mom persisted for long enough that I when I finally had time, I had the good sense to reach out to Kristie and Jess in October of last year.

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Okay, this bug does look pretty cute!

 

And so began the journey of our Entomology box! Luckily, Kristie liked what StemBox was doing and so we exchanged emails in the months to come and brainstormed ideas about what a bug box would look like. We knew we wanted to create a box that taught girls how to overcome pre-existing stigmas about bugs while teaching them a new skill set. It was a fun process and there were lots of initial ideas that we exchanged but then scrapped for various reasons. We landed on the idea of a box that was all about a pinning collection. We bounced back and forth over whether we should send an actual bug in the box but decided against it because we wanted to get the girls outside and exploring the bugs in their region. It also sounded like shipping a dried or pre-frozen bug would result in a lot of broken bugs during the pinning process and we want our girls to have a great pinning experience. We also decided against using ethyl acetate in the process of collecting bugs because the experience can be distressing to the girls and the bugs. Our final decision was to keep bugs in the freezer for several days to prep them for pinning.  I’m very happy to say the advice of Jessie and Kristie, who both have PhDs in entomology,  while designing this box was invaluable.

After weeks of prep work and ideation, we finally had some demo boxes ready to film a video tutorial with. The Bug Chicks are known for their amazing reenactments of insect behaviors, if you don’t believe me you have to watch this video. If you couldn’t guess from the video, Kristie and Jess are two of the funnest people I’ve worked with. They made filming a blast and were total pros. They even brought some friends to film with!

The Bug Chicks on Set!

The Bug Chicks on Set!

Side note: I have never been brave around bugs. Logically I understand that most bugs just want to get away from me and could do little to impact me, but something visceral always occurred in me when confronted with one. From spiders in the bathroom to cockroaches in Texas, I’ve always felt squeamish dealing with bugs. So pursuing this box was an intentional step outside of my comfort zone. How can StemBox preach girl power and trying new things when I couldn’t even hold a bug without squirming?

So when Kristie and Jess arrived for filming that morning I had somehow managed to completely fool myself into thinking that we would only be working with dead bugs that day. I couldn’t have been more wrong. They brought with them a large gray sterilite box that I was more than happy to carry for them. When I finally asked what was in the box they gleefully responded with a laundry list of bugs, one which particularly stood out was the hissing cockroach. The visceral reaction immediately set in and I was consciously distancing myself from that area of the room. However, knowing that we were working to overcome stigmas about bugs I suggested that we use them to film our opening sequence. I have to admit seeing Kristie and Jess hold hissing cockroaches and Vinegaroons as if they were family pets takes some mental work to get used to.KX8A0499 Eventually I was talked into petting one of the cockroaches. My instinct when approaching the bugs, whether I wanted to or not, was to keep my mouth shut for the totally irrational fear of a bug climbing in my mouth. I talked with Kristie and Jess about where my discomfort with bugs stems from and they managed to help pinpoint it to fear of losing control of the bug and squishing them. With that in mind they were able to coach me through my first interactions and I was able to stroke the back of a cockroach, something prior to meeting them I would never have considered doing. Strangely enough, after the short encounter I found myself wanting more. It felt like an adrenaline rush and that I had accomplished something that so many other people were just incapable of doing. During filming I didn’t work my way up to holding one, but I did manage to later on in the day.

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One hundred-percent was going for a very excited face. I was still going through the “keep my mouth closed” phase of interacting with bugs.

We wanted to make sure this box worked well with girls in our age range so we hosted a local workshop at HiveBio Community Lab. It was a smaller group then normal which we were so grateful for once the pinning began. Kristie and Jess led the workshop with 4 girls in attendance, all of whom were more than happy to be in the presence of large and interesting insects. To save us all some time the Bug Chicks packed some frozen insects in Portland and brought them to Seattle to teach us all how to pin. IMG_7330

Once we started working on the actual pinning it became a very zen activity. Almost like working on a puzzle. We all started working with grasshoppers and I realized that this was the closest I had ever come to one. I couldn’t stop thinking of the villainous grasshopper, Hopper, in A Bug’s Life so for that I felt a little guilty. In any case, the legs of the grasshopper were surprisingly hard, but also so thin and fragile that manipulating them with bracing pins became a bit of a challenge. For most of our workshops, I lead the girls through the box and teach them about the concepts within, but for this box I joined the girls in learning from Kristie and Jess. After wrestling with my grasshopper for some time I finally looked at my watch and saw that an hour had come and gone. This activity was so focused that it took me completely out of my head and the time flew by. I can see how insect pinning becomes a full blown hobby for people.

My finished specimen

A quick explanation of the pins: We used the entomological grade pins (the black one in the center of the grasshopper) to steady the insect on the board. The silver pins you see are actually sewing pins that are used to brace the insect’s limbs. Entomology pins can be very pricy because they are made to last hundreds of years without rusting, unlike sewing pins. The proper technique to brace an insect is to create a V and rest the limb in the intersection. This lets the bug dry out in a desired position and after a few days you can remove all the extra pins. The goal of pinning is to create absolute symmetry on all sides and display the anatomy of the bug in all its glory! While it may seem like bracing the insect is the most important part of this technique, Kristie and Jess were careful to stress just how important the labels are as well. What you see on the right of my bug are the labels that will be moved to the entomology pin underneath the insect. The labels indicate the species of your insect, the geo location of where you found it, your name, and the date. Without this information your bug is the equivalent of a pretty picture and you’re left without data to learn about your insect.

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After pinning the grasshoppers, the girls were given the option to either pin a butterfly or play with real live bugs. All of them enthusiastically voted for live bugs. So out came the grey sterilite box once again. The reactions from the girls were priceless and awe inspiring. Having grown up my whole life with an instilled non-sensical fear of bugs that is likely tied up in some gender conformity, seeing these girls beg and plead for a turn to hold hissing cockroaches, beetles, and spiders was something that jarred me, but also made me so incredibly proud to be in the presence of girls who you just know are going to be doing a lot of amazing and scary things in the world.

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I mean, seriously! Have you ever seen a girl this excited for a beetle?

The death feigning beetles were a big hit and all of the girls had one each to hold. And of course, with 4 girls that are 10 years old fawning over beetles I had an obligation to do the same. Jess handed me the biggest beetle there, though I’m not sure what it was since it wasn’t like the one the girls had, but it was such a crazy sensation! The legs of a beetle crawling on your skin are so fragile and unlike anything else I’ve experienced.

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The hissing cockroach makes a second appearance that day!

The next bugs they brought out were the hissing cockroaches. 3 big ones! Finally I had to face them, my biggest fear! With Jess’s help I managed to hold one in my palm and genuinely admire how strange they are, but also fragile and interesting. Admittedly it took a few seconds and Jess literally held my hand, but I felt so accomplished after I’d done it. The Bug Chicks truly are bug evangelists, and I am a convert.

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A Vinegaroon that sprays vinegar out of its butt when it’s threatened. Neat and weird!

Strangely enough the only thing the girls did get a bit squirmish about was the shedding left over from a tarantula. I’m not sure if its because one person started the squeamishness that the rest followed suit or if its something else. Maybe the idea that a bug can be furry and not as snuggly as your dog is something they couldn’t grapple with. In any case, the tarantula molting was weird and impressive! Though I find myself grateful for the lack of shedding we humans have to do (but please don’t look in my bathroom drain since I do shed A LOT of hair).

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We wrapped up the workshop with snacks and girls running around outside trying to catch more bugs for their collections. All in all that workshop was one where I’ve learned the most since I got to sit down and learn from the experts!

I’m so grateful that Kristie and Jess have devoted so much time to help make this box as awesome as it is. They’ll be traveling to the rain forest this summer right after their box ships, so be sure to keep an eye on their website: www.thebugchicks.com to keep up with their latest adventures.

This box will be shipping June 25th and the last day to sign up in time for it is June 16th. Don’t forget that if you’re a new subscriber you can use the promo code BUGCHICKS17 to receive a bonus box free with your subscription order.

I’m really excited to see what our steminists can find this summer and the collections they make with their boxes. Make sure you tag StemBox and the Bug Chicks in your adventures using the hashtags: #StemBox and #TheBugChicks

Yay bugs!!!!

Reflections and Directions

It has been almost a year to the day since I’ve written for the StemBox blog, but I think it is time for some reflection and updating of goals. Since starting the company I’ve encountered countless opportunities and often times can feel frozen with the decisions in front of me or guilt-ridden over something I’ve chosen that doesn’t pan out. Such is the angst of founding and running a company,. Keep in mind this has been a constant mental state for over 2 years when I started exposing the world to my boxes at our first StemBox Workshop in 2015, never having an equal or co-founder within the company to share some of this.

But don’t let this make you think that I haven’t enjoyed the trials and joys of StemBox, I have never been so excited, scared, and proud of something in my short life. I truly believe I have found my calling and passion; something that I get to work on everyday, and I realize what a fortune that is in this world. There is always a new challenge, a story from a parent, or a steminist herself that I meet that continues to fuel my passion and energy for StemBox.

Maybe deservedly, maybe undeservedly I took a break last week for the first time in 2 years. A break in the way of purposefully distancing myself from emails, support tickets, and logistics of the company. I needed some time to distance myself from the internal workings and minutia of what I’ve created to re-examine if what I’m doing continues to fulfill the mission of creating a world in which girls thrive, lead, and dominate science in all of its forms.

A little aside here, but someone asked me the other day, “What does equality look like on the supreme court?”. I started doing math in my head, ‘Okay, 9 divided by 2, round up…’ when I remembered the answer that required no math… “Nine supreme court justices who are women. That is equality.” Some will regard this as sexism or exclusivity. I ask you then, why would 9 men on the supreme court be any different? This is how I’ve learned to approach women in science. I don’t believe women are better than men and that men somehow deserve to serve in subordinate positions. I simply believe that women deserve the equal opportunities men have received, and that may result in a field dominated by women. The opportunity for women to dominate a field in the same way men have for centuries is equality. This idea also extends to fields where woman have historically dominated, that men should also have equal opportunity to work as well.

Now, back to my point. I was pondering what it was my company needs to do to accomplish these goals. But what were these goals? So I started with a list of primary objectives, followed by secondary, and non-objectives. This is a fully transparent list, I could be foolhardy in sharing, but documenting what it is the company is built to do is something that I believe will hold StemBox and myself accountable and hopefully guide other young women and girls to develop their own ideas on success.

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What the workspace looks like in reflection mode. Notice the different colored pens, a staple.

Now, for your digestion, the entirety of this list:

Primary Objectives

  1. Design AWESOME science experiments for girls
  2. Create COOL content for parents and girls interested in STEM
  3. Foster a COMMUNITY of Steminists
  4. Execute CONSISTENT fulfillment and delivery of products
  5. Deliver EXCEPTIONAL customer support

Secondary Objectives

  1. Make enough money to sustain and grow StemBox’s mission
  2. Legal responsibilities
  3. Partnering with other businesses that share our mission

Non-Objectives

  1. “Meta” Startup Success
  2. Sexy press and PR
  3. Competitor Squashing

The logic behind distinguishing primary objectives from what are secondary objectives is that by performing the primaries and keeping those at the forefront of what we do, will naturally draw some of our secondary objectives. For example, by creating awesome experiments that girls love every month and doing so with consistent quality and punctuality will lead to greater customer retention and word of mouth that increases our revenue stream to support our growth. With that growth we will attract likeminded business partners and the need for legal infrastructure (which we have, it just needs maintaining and updating as we grow).

The non-objectives are what I see as distractions that I believe have negatively impacted my ability to make this company the best it can be. In Seattle, the startup scene is shiny and self involved. From what my experience has been in two years here, it feels like an exclusive club that promotes elitism based on what you’ve fundraised and how many deals you’ve done, not on the quality of a product or company itself. To be honest, it is an alluring field that fuels one’s ego and conflates your self esteem with awards and invites. My self worth and the worth of my company need only be concerned with the satisfaction of my customers and the inspiration we deliver to them. Though, it is still fun to be nominated for awards and receive exclusive invitations, this does little if not nothing for the value of my product. Accolades are only byproducts of doing something to the best of your ability, not a goal.

The same can be said of sexy press. I will not make it a goal to go after the “hot” topic and pitch new angles for our company. If we’re doing something correctly and honestly, we’ll be growing organically and making a splash with our niche demographics who are most important to our mission. Organic press is different from pursued press.

Competitor squashing is also something that occurs when you pay attention to startups, who’s being written about, and what you aren’t getting. It takes you out of your lane to bump into someone else’s path and knock them off the road. If your product is of quality and integrity, you shouldn’t need to do this.  I’ll admit, I’m human, and I feel anger towards the people I feel have wronged the company or have received something I felt StemBox had earned. That’s human.  I do my best to acknowledge these feelings and move on, but I don’t linger as its said and done and I can only adjust my course and speed.

I’m starting to realize what a serious post this has turned out to be, but I suppose this is just the mood I’ve found myself in. I’m working to share more of the story and behind the scenes moments when it comes to StemBox. We’re still a small business, operating at a pace slower than I’d anticipated, but that doesn’t mean we’re anywhere near failing. It just means we’re slow and steady, which I’ll take over a wildly successful and suddenly dead company.

I’ve worked out a chart that I find interesting which I’ll be sharing in a following post…next year. Just kidding, but at this rate who knows! I’m glad to be too busy to write all my feels and ideas, but I think at this point its okay to share these things, I think they’ll be helpful to the next person!

I’ll leave everyone with an uplifting gif that I’ve used before, I’m sure, yes, actually I definitely have. But it’s an aspirational goal. To be reincarnated as a chihuahua being rained down on by Nabisco snacks. Science might be able to help me with that one day!

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Behold, the power of LEMONS!

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For the month of March, StemBox partnered with Clorox’s green clean brand, Green Works Natural Cleaners, and girl was it a blast.

This partnership first started back in August of 2015. Some folks at Green Works had heard about StemBox’s Kickstarter and it was a total no brainer. Green Works supports girls in STEM and is even founded by a female chemist baddy, Maria Ochomogo! So of course, we were bound to become besties. And it was like a lemon match made in science heaven (I’m definitely the best at metaphors and humility). Over the course of a few months, StemBox and Green Works worked together to come up with an experiment that represented the power of Green Works’ products while teaching girls about an interesting hands-on STEM concept. Thus the Lemon Battery Box was born!

Lemon Battery for web

Honestly, my favorite pieces of this box were the adorable robot steminist sticker and the neato fruit clock powered by citrus juices!

The Science!

The scientific principle at work in this box is based on the acid base chemistry of most common chemical batteries. By harnessing the #naturalpotential in lemons, we can generate an electric current. This electric current is created by the flow of electrons (which, hello! electrons sounds just like the word electric!) in a continuous circle, from anode to cathode. We were able to power a small LED using just this technology, which is basically almost magic, because this was just using lemons, I swear!

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The reason for this sorcery goes back to the acid base chemistry I mentioned earlier. Lemons are full of acid, specifically citric acid, which makes it a great oxidizer. Acids are good oxidizers in that they are capable of stripping electrons away from particular atoms. On one side of our lemon we have a zinc nail, our anode. Zinc has an abundance of electrons so it’s happy to give some away, which is what our citric acid lemon juice will do. But the electrons need somewhere to go! That’s where the cathode comes in, copper. The copper is less endowed in the electron game than zinc, so copper is kind of like your younger sibling claiming they didn’t get enough ice cream and so does whatever it can to get as much ice cream as you even if that means physically reaching over and sucking it down through a ridiculously long straw (unless you are an only child or the youngest child, in which case I repeat, I am the best at metaphors).

Lemon

The straw in this metaphor is our wire. The electrons (ice cream) needs something to travel through. Matter doesn’t just morph across space to mesh with other molecules (don’t quote me on this, science is weird, who knows, they’ll prove this soon I’m sure).  So while copper sucks away at the electrons from zinc using our wire straw, the movement of electrons is creating a current that can be manipulated to move through something like our LED bulb to create light. Eventually eating all that ice cream/electrons is going to make you need to go to the bathroom. Copper does the same thing, it needs to release these electrons back into the lemon solution, so the citric acid lemon juice is happy to take these used electrons from copper and move them into the lemon juice solution.  And there you have it!

TLDR watch this YouTube video:

The Steminists!

I could go on all day about how cool I think this project is, but I think it’s probably best left to our steminists to show just how enlightening (bad puns for everyone!) this experiment really was.

 

 

StemBox goes to Oakland and San Francisco!

If you want to see some girls performing this experiment live, check out my interview with ABC7 Bay Area Life here!

It was a ton of fun getting to head out to the Clorox labs in Oakland and taking a few hours after the interview to explore the waterfront of San Francisco, so a special thank-you to Clorox and ABC7 for setting that trip and interview up. Check out the photos of our Oakland/San Francisco adventure!

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Me and Maria Ochomogo, the founder of Green Works!

And some photos of behind the scenes at Clorox labs…

Now some tourist photos exploring the San Francisco Waterfront!

Phew, that was a doozy of a box, but definitely worth seeing how many girls enjoyed learning about batteries. Stay tuned for a blog about our April box, Aviation and Aerodynamics…hopefully it won’t take another 2 months to blog about it  😉

-Kina

Return of the blog!

 

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Get ready for all the gifs.

It’s been a long long time since I’ve posted on this blog. Since our Kickstarter campaign back in July was successfully funded for $23k, it has been non-stop StemBox madness for me! There were a few immediate and obvious actions to take like hiring legal and accounting firms to dot the i’s and cross the t’s. And from there it just became a matter of building a real company that could inspire young girls everywhere into believing that STEM is totally their jam!

Since the Kickstarter we’ve appeared on New Day Northwest Seattle’s morning talk show, done plenty of interviews with folks like MTV, Fortune.com, KPLU, and more while also being featured on the gift lists of Melinda Gates and Time.com.

Not to mention we signed a contract with our first corporate sponsor,  Clorox’s subsidiary, Green Works Natural Cleaners. This moment is basically the second I realized that this wasn’t a dream, and StemBox needed 150% of my time and energy. So I left my research job at Fred Hutchinson. Suffice it to say, lots of crying on my last day and being scared of what would happen for the entirety of the process. I’m still scared sometimes, to be honest. But being scared and working through the unknown is what startup life is all about… I guess! With statistics that say 9/10 startups fail, it’s hard not to be scared, especially when you’ve put all of your eggs into that basket. But enough of the scary stuff, back to the fun stuff!

I was also invited to speak about StemBox at the Life Is Beautiful Festival in Las Vegas (my home town!) along the likes of Bill Nye, which was an amazing and humbling experience, I could write a whole other post about it, but I’ll spare you all and just share the video of the 15 minute talk I gave and an embarrassing photo I took with Bill backstage.

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I look like a crazy person because I didn’t expect Bill to take the selfie himself!

Bill was really nice, but very busy. He stopped by the festival for a few hours to rest and give his talk, but immediately after his speech, he was whisked away in a golf cart to the airport. Luckily, I got to him before they drove off and he jumped out of the cart to chat and take some pictures before speeding off again.

 

After all the dazzling sparkle of press and interviews there is the cold hard reality that this was all just hype for an idea. We hadn’t shipped a single box* while all of this was happening. So that left a lot to prove and live up to. Definitely something daunting that I lost sleep over, but a challenge I was ready for!

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So after dozens of interviews, hundreds of emails, thousands of dollars, and what felt like a lifetime of waiting, it happened.

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It happened 750 times to be precise.

We built 750 boxes and shipped them to girls all across America. 

And the rest is history. Just kidding, there’s still about infinity+1 things to do everyday. I’ll be updating our blog when we send out a new box every month to help explain the process and emotional value each box has to me, as I think it’s a very important way to remind girls the humanity behind science and business. I’ll also try and share the fun stories that come along with being a first time entrepreneur and longtime feminist. So stay tuned and help keep up our momentum by sharing StemBox with your friends, getting in touch with me (even just to say hi**), or by subscribing! Box by box, StemBox is changing the playing field for girls and women in STEM. #BOSS

And finally, just for fun, I will leave you with my all time favorite gif in the world.

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Me opening my inbox.

*We did host 2 small workshops in Seattle, but that’s still not running a fully fledged business!
**Emails just rain down from the sky these days, it just never ends, although not all of them are fun emails. Please forgive me if it takes me forever to respond!

 

Filming Update!

One of our goals here at StemBox is to deliver real scientific role models to young girls. For each box StemBox produces, we hope to highlight one role model in that field of STEM so that girls can see what scientists really look like. For our first box on DNA extraction, I went ahead and basically self interviewed since I spend most of my time working with DNA and its applications.  Our videographer, Greg, is a total pro and has been so amazing to work with. (If you ever need to hire someone for a video project let me know and I’ll get you in touch!) Greg has also been instrumental in filming our Kickstarter video, which should be released soon.

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Filming the DNA Interview in the lab!

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Filming the Kickstarter Video!

In addition to filming for the DNA box, we managed to snag an interview at the Woodland Park Zoo with a raptor keeper for our Owl Pellet box! It was so much fun getting to see behind the scenes at the zoo and learn more about what goes in to taking care of owls! Stay tuned for the release of this video as well! It was also a great opportunity to sport my favorite owl sweater. Special thanks to Robert from Cinesaurus and Shelby for their help with this shoot!

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Ros holding Coba the owl during our interview! What an awesome team!

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Behind the scenes!!

Stay tuned for more filming updates and the release of our videos in the near future!

Meet Linda Bookey! Our new marketing and outreach advisor!

I met Linda Bookey at the She’s Geeky conference a few weeks ago. She’s an awesome person to work with and her enthusiasm for StemBox is exactly the kind of the thing that keeps me going when things get tough. She’s already been a huge help to our process and has tons of great ideas.

Here’s a quick bio about Linda:

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Linda Bookey

Marketing and Outreach Advisor

A serial entrepreneur with a passion for technology and education, Linda develops marketing strategies for companies interested in widening their reach into new markets. Her interests include workforce development and STEM outreach to grow the pipeline for women, and underrepresented populations. Linda has built deep relationships with tech influencers, educators, authors and developers and is highly regarded in the community for being a “master connector.

Meet Alice, Our New Social Media Marketing Intern!

With all of the different platforms that StemBox is using it can be difficult for one person to keep up with everything! So when my old roommate’s sister reached out and asked to be a part of StemBox I was so excited to bring her on board! I can personally attest to Alice’s sunny disposition, positive attitude, and commitment to STEM.  She will be handling all of our social media platforms starting in June when her semester at Emory University ends.

Here’s a quick bio about Alice!

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Alice Halter is originally from Albuquerque, NM and is currently pursuing a bachelor of science in Biology at Emory University in Atlanta, GA. After college, she plans to attend medical school after taking a gap year. Outside of school, she pursues her passion for various forms of dance, as a choreographer and dancer for Emory Dance Company and other student organizations. This summer she will also be working as a research assistant in a toxicology lab in Emory’s Environmental Health graduate department.

We can’t wait to have her start her internship with us over the summer! Thanks Alice!

First StemBox Workshop!

Last weekend StemBox hosted it’s first workshop on DNA strawberry extractions!

We had fifteen awesome girls attend the event who, in my opinion, are the kind of girls that are going to be leading the charge in shaping STEM fields in the future.

The event started with parents checking in their children and getting some questions answered before we got going.

Then it was time for a round of hang-man led by one of our StemBoxers, Sophia, where each girl at the table introduced herself and guessed a letter. By the end of the game it turned out that Sophia, an excellent speller, had chosen “Albert Einstein” as the secret word.

We moved on to our DNA lesson.  I was so excited to show the girls the powerpoint presentation I had put together for them, but according to Murphy’s law, whatever can go wrong will go wrong, and so my projector adaptor did not match the model we had available for the day. Which means… a good old fashioned white board lesson! Which I must say, might have been the best way to go in the first place as the girls really enjoyed making fun of my idea of a strawberry, insisting that I had drawn a radish and that our experiment involve radish DNA extraction.

It was so exciting to see the girls interested in science and DNA by the questions they asked. One of my favorite teaching moments went like this:

Kina: “You get half of your DNA from your mom and the other half of your DNA from your dad.”

StemBoxer: “What about my step-mom? Do I get DNA from her?”

Hopefully I was able to answer her question gracefully  enough by explaining that although she does not have any of her step-mom’s DNA, she was still emotionally and spiritually very much related to her step-mom.

After the DNA lesson everyone made their way down to the lab to do our experiment! The girls had their StemBoxes waiting for them and were able to open their boxes and see what was inside. After explaining what each item in the box was for, we got started on the experiment, and it was by far one of the most exciting and rewarding things to see. The girls took their science seriously and worked diligently on their experiment. My favorite part of the experiment was watching how quiet everyone got once they added the isopropanol to their strawberry/DNA buffer mix and precipitated their DNA. Everyone was so excited to see what DNA actually looked like and some of the girls wanted to keep their DNA on a necklace to show off after the workshop.

Once everyone finished their experiment the girls went to wash their hands and rinse out their reusable lab equipment while our volunteers refilled all of their kits with new reagents so they could go home and explore more DNA extractions.

We finished off the day with photos, snacks, and cupcakes (courtesy of The Geeky Hostess). Girls were sent home with some awesome DNA posters to hang up in their rooms and full StemBoxes to use. All in all I am so thrilled that the girls enjoyed themselves and the event was a success.

I sent parents some surveys after the event to get their feedback and one parent’s comment really meant a lot to me and absolutely makes me feel like StemBox is something girls really need right now:

“The girls were so excited after and just couldn’t stop talking about the things they learned. … This conversation transitioned into theorizing about other things (“What does the air have to do with gravity? Are they related mom?”) I love how once their gears started turning they just didn’t stop. I asked if science class at school was as fun and the response was a resounding “No way!” Their minds were absolutely blown about if the DNA were placed end to end how many times it would reach to the moon and back, they seriously couldn’t stop thinking about it and saying “I just don’t understand how that’s possible!” Later in the day they took inspiration from what they learned in their imaginative play. [A friend] played the role of a scientist who has this amazing discovery (fruit DNA theory) and brings it to a kid-run organization in the hopes of securing a job. [My daughter] played the part of very tough interviewer. The role entailed basically facilitating an experiment where the kids are teaching the grownups.

Here’s some awesome sound bites for you:

“I can’t wait to make more DNA!”

“Wouldn’t it be cool if we could put these on necklaces and wear them to school to show everyone? I have some perfect string for this”

“Science is overwhelming, just because of the big words”

“It’s fun to be overwhelmed!”

And now some photos!

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