The 21st century has seen an exponential growth of technological advancements globally. With new innovations for simplified learning, online teaching applications and platforms, young entrepreneurs designing unique solutions; science and technology have certainly made a major impact on our modern world. However, while technology has simplified life, the creation of new technology is predominantly limited in the hands of a few. Barring male adults from, outliers are only a handful. STEM for Girls India (SFGI) questions this norm, to expand STEM innovations’ infinite possibilities, in the hands of our students, particularly girls.
Reinforcing SFGI’s motive of bringing STEM learning to female students who often fall out of the STEM ecosystem after middle school, India’s National Education Policy 2020 identifies the symbiotic relationship between technology and education.
It states –
“Use and integration of technology to improve multiple aspects of education will be supported and adopted, provided these interventions are rigorously and transparently evaluated in relevant contexts before they are scaled up. An autonomous body, the National Educational Technology Forum (NETF), will be created to provide a platform for the free exchange of ideas on the use of technology to enhance learning, assessment, planning, administration, and so on, both for school and higher education.”
The correlation between the use of technology and it’s creation is simple. The current generation of students are closely related to technology in their daily life, which, if encouraged, in the form of technology creation, rather than just use, can add a layer of practical learning. This empowers students to observe problem areas and apply their education to innovate solutions, encouraging logical thinking and reasoning in real life applications. Not only does this create enabled and confident problem solvers in the fast paced and ever-evolving modern world, but it also gives rise to unique solutions from a fresh perspective from India’s undeniable strength, its youth!
“Half of our population has somewhere been left behind in the STEM innovation space. They need to be brought forward as they will be able to best identify and solve their own problems that need improved innovation.” – Nishi, Teacher, Gramin +2 High School, Chakbariya Patna, Bihar
STEM for Girl Initiative creating Student innovators
Supporting student creators involves three major areas of concern.
- Teaching practical skills and fostering habits to observe and think of unique ideas to create real-world applications.
- Creating enabling environments to encourage students’ imagination, creativity, and risk-taking nature.
- Enhancing leadership skills and sense of agency.
STEM for Girls addresses these through a range of interventions that promote innovation, observation, design thinking, and collaborative problem solving. Creating a learning environment beyond school learning that is supportive of addressing doubts, errors, and fostering growth, the hackathon sessions provide an opportunity for students to identify problems around themselves and work in groups with the help of user feedback to build technical solutions. The sessions brought out young innovators from across the country, who built rainwater harvesters, water transport apparatuses, sanitary pad incinerators, network boosters, cleaning devices, washing machines, pest control devices andkitchen appliances, among many others . These students proved that if nudged and nurtured and provided access to a safe collaborative platform, they too can be creative innovators.
Code-a-thon, a collaboration of Hindustan Times and IBM India, is another such approach that teaches coding to young girls to put them on a trail to success. Using SCRATCH Jr., an introductory programming language for young children to create their own interactive stories and games, students put together graphics, animate and modify the characters, add their own voices and sounds, even insert photos of themselves and then use programming blocks to make their characters come to life. In the process, through a culmination of productivity with play, children develop coding skills and learn how to design projects in a fun way.
Students as confident, passionate, and future-ready citizens of the world and its challenges
Anu Sharma, a student of 9th grade at Radha Krishna Maru Govt. Girls Sr. Sec. School, Sikar comes from a small village named Badusar in West Bengal. Her father works in Kolkata and is the only bread earner for their family of four. Anu, with her family lived in Delhi, until the pandemic resulted in her father losing his livelihood, forcing Anu and her brother to move back to Sikar and join a government school to be able to continue their education. The situation impacted their confidence, creating fear and worry for their future careers.
Amid the setbacks, STEM for Girls Initiative was introduced in Anu’s school helping develop a sense of newfound confidence to take on the world. She began studying STEM courses regularly and participated in HT Code-a-thon, which secured her the second rank in the north region at the national level.
“I am developing new skills on my own under my SFGI coordinators mentorship. He set up my student account on IBM Skills Build platform, which is an amazing platform for students to develop skills on their own. I have earned 5 Badges on this platform and achieved Champion Learner Gold title. I am now continually working on my 21st century skills through the Stem for Girls Program and will continue exploring technology to create new things.” – Anu Sharma
While the focus on improving learning technology for students grows, it is also important to question why students remain limited to just using technology. Innovators and creators are built from a combination of technical and practical knowledge, along with confidence building, experiences, opportunities, and vision. Therefore, STEM for Girls does not limit itself to building the engineers of tomorrow but promotes holistic growth that ensures students define themselves as creators of technology, rather than just users, cultivating a mindset shift towards a multi-level STEM ecosystem where students apply what they learn and think out of the box to truly innovate.