Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Lights, Cameras and Robots in Northern California

Marina Park - CEO, Girl Scouts of Northern California, lawyer and mom pens a column in The San Francisco Chronicle's City Brights about Girl Scouting. This week's column reports that Girl Scouts of Northern California has been running day camps in Bay Area migrant farm communities for many years. This year they are bringing Girl Scout day camps to 100 daughters of farm workers who live in Gilroy and San Martin and another 70 in Half Moon Bay. A grant from Dell helping take these summer day camps to a new level.

Park writes:
On day one the girls learned about digital movie making and robotics and explored stereotypes: What are stereotypes? What barriers do they create? What do the girls believe about girls and women in technology? And are their beliefs stereotypes? For day two, each girl chose to continue with either digital movies or robots. The girls who chose movies, explored stereotypes through their movies , for example: “boys are better than girls at things like building robots.” They interviewed the girls who chose to build robots and also interviewed role models who came to visit, including teens on the NASA / Girl Scouts’ Space Cookies robotics team. The conclusion of the “boys are better than girls” movie, by the way, was “no, girls are just as good, because we just built and programmed a robot and it works!”

Day three, they had to edit their movies to 2 minutes or less, and at the final day celebration we got to see all 13 movies. For most of the girls it was their first experience with digital movies, so the movies were pretty basic, but over the course of 26 minutes a story unfolded. A lot of the movies captured fascination with the fact that girls just like them took all these little pieces of Lego, figured out how to follow directions, assemble the robots, use computers to program the robots and get them to work! We also got to see lots of “live action” robot challenges (shown in the photo). Two teams went head to head to with a challenge that required their robots to race against the clock to move forward, turn left, travel up a ramp and “knock down the stereotype.” The “stereotype” was a small yellow submarine. I’m not sure of the significance of that, but I thought it was pretty cute.
According to the Girl Scout Research Institute study Generation STEM: What Girls Say about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, though a majority of today’s girls have a clear interest in STEM, they don’t prioritize STEM fields when thinking about their future careers.

This latest offering from the Girl Scout Research Institute shows that 74 percent of teen girls are interested in STEM subjects and the general field of study. Further, a high 82 percent of girls see themselves as “smart enough to have a career in STEM.” And yet, few girls consider it their number-one career option: 81 percent of girls interested in STEM are interested in pursuing STEM careers, but only 13 percent say it’s their first choice. Additionally, girls express that they don’t know a lot about STEM careers and the opportunities afforded by these fields, with 60 percent of STEM-interested girls acknowledging that they know more about other careers than they do about STEM careers.