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SWE in Nashville—Music to Our Ears!

Oct 27, 2015 | By: Isabel Huff

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Just back from Music City, where we presented at the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) Annual Conference “Reach Out to Reach Up”.  The title of our presentation—Beyond Pink and Princesses:  Intelligent, Engaging Engineering Outreach Activities for Girls—clearly resonated with STEM professionals and educators.  A huge turnout—standing room only!—reinforced our concerns over the unfortunate trend in new “girls” STEM resources—resources that reduce focus to “all things girly” instead of honoring and appealing to girls’ intelligence, values, and ability and desire to engage with important, relevant, and complex ideas.

The goal of our presentation was twofold:  first, to distinguish our approach to engineering education from those that perpetuate stereotypes and diminish girls’ innate interests and capabilities; and second, to highlight the suitability of our interactive, idea-centered project materials for one-day or partial-day outreach events—including our STEM mystery novel Talk to Me and offline activities that support engineering themes introduced in the novel.  Three offline activities about artificial intelligence (AI) were highlighted in the session—Tell Me What to Do (ideas related to computer programming); How Are You Feeling (facial recognition as a form of AI); and AI’s the Limit (exploring the extremes of AI with idea pillars).  These activities are perfect for classroom or other STEM outreach events often hosted by SWE chapters, informal STEM educators, and corporate STEM volunteers.  As with all components of our curriculum, these activities are idea-centered and spark collaborative discussion about fascinating, open-ended questions in AI and work well as standalones or as complements to coding or robotics programs.  In fact, the idea pillar activity was so popular at Invent it. Build it.—so engaging to the girls that literally swarmed our booth—that we’re going to blog about it separately.  Stay tuned!

Due to the high number of requests for copies of these activities, we’ve posted them here.  Feel free to download and share!  Many attendees also asked us to share our presentation slides, which are posted here.  Note that we removed the actual video files of the Science Cheerleaders and Project Mc2 (they don’t belong to us) and the actual audiobook chapter (it can't be embedded) but included those links so you can access them.  Also, here and here are the two flyers distributed at the presentation in case you did not get copies or want to forward to a colleague.  Note that we’re offering a #SWE discount of 40% for purchases of the novel.  Contact us for larger discounts on bulk orders. 

Thanks to all of you who are working to provide meaningful outreach and engineering experiences for girls and sought us out to express your excitement over our resources.  We are very much interested in your feedback on our materials and to learning how we can best help you in your outreach efforts.  Please email me at ishuff@stcc.edu for more information about Through My Window and for help in tailoring our materials to your particular event needs.  Looking forward to seeing you at #WE16!

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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Nos. 1223868 and 1223460.  Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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