“My life is STEM, and I use that to help my community, especially younger women. Engineers design and build our future, and that is what I aspire to do. My favorite part of the STEM world is watching as students' eyes light up when I walk in with a robot or demonstrate a small science experiment. In that moment, you can see a glimpse into what the future will be."
By Fiona Redmond, SWE Educator Member
Bekah Travis first became interested in STEM when she was in fourth grade. Her love for Legos and robots at an early age drove her to form a team and join the FIRST Lego League. Bekah has been involved with FIRST Lego ever since then, continuing her participation through high school.
When she started high school, Bekah noticed that she was often the only girl on her robotics teams. She has made it her goal to encourage other girls to join and create a more diverse environment, and she is now the captain of her team! In addition to leading her team in competitions, Bekah encourages them to provide STEM education opportunities for younger students in the community.
Bekah is also the founder of her school’s SWENext club. Here she also promotes STEM outreach for her community. Her club hosted a STEM day this year and is planning on running a STEM camp during winter break. They see a bright future in STEM and strive to instill and maintain an interest in STEM with the young girls in their community.
By Rebekah Travis, SWENexter
When I was in fourth grade, my mother saw an article in a Girl Scout magazine about a team of girls that competed with a Lego robot. She then asked me if I would be interested in joining such a team. Well, I was not about to deny a chance to play with Legos or robots, and from that a FIRST Lego League team was formed at my elementary school in Saint Marys, Georgia. Through the FLL team I really started to enjoy the world of STEM and have been a part of it ever since through FIRST robotics, SWENext, and other various programs.
When I started becoming involved with STEM and robotics teams, it was very clear that I was not always welcome. I was usually the only girl and sometimes also the youngest. Even as a freshman (just four years ago!), the robotics team was thought to be a boys club. Therefore, my goal has been to recreate and establish programs to be more inclusive and open to diversity and change. I have served nine years in FIRST robotics, four of which have been on my high school team. I worked with friends and faculty to rebuild the team and together we have create a home for engineering for everyone. As captain, I guide the team to recognize the bigger picture and to work to improve our community through STEM outreach. FIRST is actually how I learned about SWE! As a senior, I am planning to major in mechanical engineering and am looking to apply to Georgia Tech, MIT, and WPI. I plan to become a collegiate and then professional member of SWE, as well as a mentor for FIRST robotics teams past college.
Our SWENext chapter began last January, and we focus our efforts on outreach to our community. Since day one, we decided that our goal was to encourage younger girls to stay with STEM, after noticing a large drop in STEM interest around the middle school years. We hosted our first annual STEM day last March for over 50 girls in our community with the help of local universities and organizations. This year, we are planning to host the spring STEM day again as well as possibly a winter break STEM camp. For our high school, we are contacting local professional women scientists and engineers to come speak with us about their careers and stories. Many of our twenty members are also involved on the FIRST robotics team, science Olympiad, Mu Alpha Theta, or other local STEM organizations, so we work to integrate our SWE chapter with the other programs, helping with events or smaller outreach.
Although our world is changing and we are slowly creating more inclusive and welcoming environments in STEM, there is still a large gender gap. It is much easier today for girls to become involved with STEM than, say, thirty years ago. However, I find that often times there is still a stigma associated with the STEM field. Many times girls are pushed around in STEM activities and their skills undermined. I find that many times this problem would be solved if there was just a bit more encouragement. In my experience, it way mentors and teachers encouraging me that really brought me to fight my way into the STEM field. If the girls are pushed out when they are younger, they are likely to not continue in STEM through high school, college, or careers. Therefore, we must help SWE and other organizations build the future and work to inspire other women
For my innovator award submission I really wanted to highlight that my interest in STEM is more than just having fun in activities. My life is STEM, and I use that to help my community, especially younger women. Engineers design and build our future, and that is what I aspire to do. My favorite part of the STEM world is watching as students' eyes light up when I walk in with a robot or demonstrate a small science experiment. In that moment, you can see a glimpse into what the future will be. Through the innovator award and SWE I hope to continue this type of work into college and professional life.