What do you get when you have a group of young girls with a nascent curiosity in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) gather in Ryerson’s Launch Zone and matched up with successful female professionals in those fields? The iCreate Project!
In the past few months, I've had the unique opportunity of being on the planning committee of this pilot project aimed at creating a space where STEM, entrepreneurship, and community engagement seamlessly intersected to empower girls of diverse ethnic backgrounds to pursue education and careers in these innovative fields.
Bright and early on August 15th, the iCreate Project brought young girls from Toronto’s priority neighbourhoods for a day full of experiential learning and mentorship. The girls took part in a series of workshops that challenged them to think of innovative solutions to community problems, build prototypes of their own inventions, and even design and launch their own rockets!
Intersectionality in STEM Inclusion
The fact that women are significantly underrepresented in STEM is widely acknowledged and accepted. But the intersectionality of the problem – that is, the added layer of ethnic diversity – has largely gone unrecognized in discussions around STEM inclusion. By recruiting from schools and communities in Toronto’s priority neighbourhoods with its high proportions of immigrant and visible minority residents, the iCreate Project actively tackled this issue head on.
Highlighting Community Impact
We opened the day with our Innovation Workshop that challenged the girls to consider this: “What is one problem in your neighbourhood that you want to fix?” From vandalism in playgrounds to bullying at school, from gun violence to the lack of public spaces, the girls brought serious issues to the fore.
Research of university offerings have shown that programs in STEM that focus on societal impact and not just on technical pursuits have drawn a higher proportion of women. With this model in mind, we developed the day’s curriculum to intentionally present STEM through a unique lens that highlights its potential for solving community problems.