Thursday, July 12, 2012

Girl Scouts Inspire STEM Push for Girls, Globally

In Africa, Ventures reports that M-Farm, an award-winning Kenyan agribusiness company created by three young women, has launched a new mobile application as part of its efforts to empower both rural farmers and women seeking careers in technology.

Having already achieved success with its SMS tool, which allows subscribing farmers to obtain price information, buy farm inputs and find buyers for their produce, M-Farm has now formed a partnership with Samsung to create a mobile application that allows farmers to receive accurate, real-time crop price information daily.

The new application allows constant access to five major Kenyan markets to Kenyan farmers, who have suffered from a lack of price information and often susceptible to middlemen taking hefty cuts. Additional monthly price analyses allow farmers to make more informed decisions on what seeds to plant and where is best to sell them.

M-Farm was in part facilitated by a group called Akirachix, a community of over 200 tech women which is seeking to help develop a successful force of women in technology in order to help build the industry. The number of women working in the field of technology is low – just 15 percent – with recent research from the Girl Scout Research Institute showing that women considering a career in the technological industry were aware of perceived embedded discrimination, with 57 percent saying they thought they would have to work harder than men to be taken seriously. Other women consider the career to be a male-orientated one.

In California, Whittier Daily News reports that The Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles, AT&T and the nonprofit organization Girls In Tech Los Angeles came together to sponsor the event, which hosted area girl scouts as well as students from high schools in Whittier and El Monte.

"Imagine: Your STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) Future" attracted dozens of girls from eighth grade to 12th grade.

"It's about Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles reaching out to girls in underserved communities to help them explore careers in the STEM fields," GSGLA spokeswoman Liliana Arguello said.

The participants rotated through four classroom activities focusing on four different areas: cutting edge, planet, engineering and lab.

In the cutting edge section, the girls learned about product development and the quickly changing world of social media and computer networks.

In the planet section, the girls learned about different methods of cleaning up oil spills by creating small versions of their own spills, then trying out different real-life techniques to clean them up. They also built simple fountains to learn about the potential for creating clean energy through hydraulics and pneumatics.

For the engineering segment, the girls built their own electronic buzzer devices, then used them to play a mathematical trivia game while troubleshooting their creations.

In the lab portion of the program, the students performed hands-on experiments.

"Right now, we were extracting DNA from a banana," said Girl Scout Brooke Roth, 16, of Los Angeles.

She added she was considering becoming a doctor and enjoyed the science-centered event.