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!

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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).

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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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Prepping for our debut!

It is less than a week away from our debut workshop and it’s great to look back and see how far things have come.

With the original conception of this idea there came a lot of planning, designing, curating, and conversations about how to create StemBox. And after all the hard work, I could not be more excited and nervous to present the first workshop to 20 girls next weekend at HiveBio.

The girls will be receiving our first box, Strawberry DNA Extraction,  a lesson on DNA, and an amazing DNA poster (donated by Life Technologies). What makes me so proud and excited about these boxes is that they include materials that are the same caliber of what is used everyday in real life research labs. I can speak from first hand experience that the materials in each box are the same as what I use everyday at work. The authenticity of these materials is key to making young girls feel that they too have access to real science and to do away with as much of the initial feelings of “impostor syndrome” that most girls in STEM are all too familiar with, at any level.

Putting together our workshop has come with many lessons and opportunities to grow StemBox even further.  Our first workshop sold out all 20 tickets in one day. Which is amazing and incredibly humbling. As a result of the popularity of the first event there have been many requests for StemBox to host a second event. I’m currently working out dates for a second DNA workshop and prepping for an Owl Pellet workshop soon after. We can guarantee 20 spots for each workshop at $20 each.

My hopes are to get 6 workshops for the first 6 boxes out as soon as possible so that we can finally start taking orders for our boxes. If all goes well at the first event, you can expect StemBox to begin taking preorders for the first box within a week or so of the event and delivery by July.  If July seems too far away, look into our workshops to get a taste of StemBox! (www.mystembox.com/events)

Again, I am so grateful for all of the support StemBox has received and the excitement of girls and parents that can’t wait to get their first box.  Be on the lookout for signups for the next workshop and photos from the first event. If you’d like to be up to date on the latest events be sure to subscribe to our email list on our “Subscribe” page!

First StemBox post!

Wow, this has been a long time coming!

The idea for StemBox came July 2014 while my boyfriend, Forest and I were driving to West Seattle for a summer day trip. Ever since then, it has been on my mind night and day and I haven’t been able to satiate my need to get more done with it than I did the day before.

I’m extremely passionate about StemBox and the support I’ve received in starting this endeavor  has been invaluable. With the start of the new year came a commitment to myself and to all the girls waiting  for science kits made for them, that I would make StemBox my priority and bring it into existence by the end of the year, even if just for a few girls.

I will admit that working a full time job in research (something that I really love doing) makes starting a business in something I am deeply passionate about somewhat difficult. There are days I come home from a full 8 hour and sometimes 10 hour day that I want nothing more than to work on StemBox, but am so physically and mentally exhuasted that I can barely bring myself to cook my dinner. But the days I do get to work on StemBox are always so satisfying and remind me just how important it is that StemBox continues to move forward.

Starting the website is a great step forward for StemBox. It finally has it’s own online home where users can check in for updates, blog posts, and new products.

Hopefully by the end of the month I’ll have a few workshops lined up for some beta testing of our DNA box and a few more to beta test an owl pellet experiment as well!

Thanks for reading, and keep checking in for new StemBox developments!