Monday, August 5, 2019

How One Gold Award Girl Scout Influenced Congress and Used STEM to Make a Difference

Meet Uma! She’s a Gold Award Girl Scout and an Arconic Chuck McLane Scholarship recipient from Northern California. A Girl Scout since second grade, she told us all about her science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) journey and how Girl Scouts prepared her to be successful!

What problem did you address with your Gold Award?

For my Gold Award project, I organized and led a science and robotics event for kids and their families called “Science Today for Tomorrow.” It was sponsored by NASA, had over 700 attendees, and 15 companies and organizations participated. I was inspired for this project in part by my experiences on the Space Cookies, which is a Girl Scout robotics team troop for high school girls.

What experience stood out to you as you were helping your community?

I founded and coached robotics teams at two elementary schools in my district, one of which was a Title I school that represented an underserved population. Mentoring these students after school was one of my most memorable experiences in high school and has helped shaped my aspirations of wanting to work in academia/at a university to continue to teach.

Can you share a memorable experience that allowed you to educate adults about the importance of STEM education?
Sure! 2016 was the Girl Scout Gold Award Centennial. The Arconic Foundation generously sponsored Zahra (a fellow Girl Scout and my friend) and I to each present our Gold Award work on Capitol Hill. Afterward we met with our congressional representatives to advocate for the importance of STEM education for youth, raise awareness on the Gold Award, and discuss our projects and experiences in Girl Scouts.
Top right: Zahra and Uma with former Girl Scout CEO Anna Maria Chavez.
Middle Right: Zahra and Uma with Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA).
How has Girl Scouts helped you in your science career?

Many of the skills I needed to be successful in science—perseverance, project planning, writing a proposal, presenting ideas and results—are skills I developed and honed thanks to Girl Scouts. I graduated college in 2018 and just completed a yearlong research training fellowship at the National Institutes of Health doing research in Alzheimer’s disease.

What do you like to do for fun? 
Outside of work and school, one of my strong interests is fitness and yoga. Through a memorial fund from my college, I had the opportunity to complete my yoga teacher training certification in Rishikesh, India [the birthplace of yoga], last summer. This was one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life, yet very strenuous both physically and mentally—and I have to credit Girl Scouts for instilling in me the value of trying new experiences and being adventurous while also taking challenges by the horns. My interests in health and serving others motivated me to want to go to medical school, and next month I’ll be continuing in my eight-year program at Case Western Reserve University as a first-year medical student. 

Uma’s story is an example of resilience and passion. In a world where women constitute just 25 percent of the STEM industry and female STEM professionals are less visible and paid less than their male counterparts, we need more female STEM role models who girls can relate to and trust. Thank you, Uma, for being our STEM-spiration! 

Do you have a story you’d like to share with your Girl Scout sisters? We want to hear it. Contact us at

About the Arconic Foundation Chuck McLane Scholarship

From 2013 to 2017, Girl Scouts of the USA partnered with Arconic Foundation to provide ten Gold Award Girl Scouts with the Arconic Chuck McLane Scholarship in recognition of their cutting-edge projects related to STEM.

Girl Scouts offers the best leadership development experience for girls in the world. Because everything a Girl Scout does centers around STEM, the outdoors, life skills, or entrepreneurship and is designed to meet her where she is now and then grow along with her. Explore what the other Arconic Chuck McLane Scholarship recipients have accomplished as part of Girl Scouts, and learn more about the Girl Scout difference.