and mathematics

This Toy Develops STEM Skills and Hands-On Thinking—Especially in Young Girls

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Gender disparity in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) continues to be a serious problem. The reasons are complex—from lack of children’s stories that feature women scientists, lack of female role models and STEM toys for girls, to persisting biases and stereotypes in schools and universities, and lack of mentorship and flexibility at the workplace. According to the 2016 Science and Engineering Indicators report of the National Science Foundation, women account for only 25 percent of the employment base in the computer and mathematical sciences field and 15 percent of the engineering workforce.

To light the engineering spark in young girls, MIT professors Maria Yang and Tony Hu have co-founded Brainy Yak Labs, a company with the mission to get kids excited about STEM through creative play. Their first product (which just finished a successful Kickstarter campaign) is a dance party lamp kit called Jubilite, which kids get to build and decorate themselves.

Jubilite lamp

While there are plenty of robot kits, drones, and programmable cars out there, nearly all of them are targeted to boys. A toy or a project needs to capture a child’s attention first, before he or she can learn from it. That is why the MIT duo has decided to start with arts and crafts which is something that many girls and boys love.

In the process of building the lamp, children learn how to use tools to assemble the plastic housing, secure the PCBs (printed circuit boards), and insert the switches. While connecting the electronic modules together, they learn about each component and its function. The instruction booklet also teaches important vocabulary like microcontroller, PCB, RGB, LED, as well as the principles behind electronics and mixing colors with light. After assembling the lamp, kids get to make it their own by decorating it with stickers, markers and sequins.

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Cutting H-1B Visas Endangers Scientific Progress For Everyone

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President Donald Trump’s recent executive order calling for a sweeping review of the H-1B visa program has raised alarm in STEM-related industries that rely heavily on an international supply of high-skilled labor.

Current policy for H-1B visas, which permit highly skilled foreigners to work in the US temporarily, prohibits employers from undercutting wages or favoring foreign workers over Americans. But the president, along with a sizable bipartisan contingent, claims that the program has enabled private employers, especially those in the tech industry, to flood the labor market and provide temporary training for workers who eventually set up shop abroad. These grievances may be legitimate, but the conversation has largely ignored another industry that depends on the H-1B visa program: academic scientific research.

As a young scientist-in-training, I’ve had the distinct pleasure of working with and learning from a number of exceptionally gifted scientists from around the world. Many of the breakthroughs and discoveries made in labs where I’ve worked were in large part due to the extraordinary contributions of these foreign-born researchers. While Trump has revealed very little about his plans for reforming the policy, the ambiguity of the announcement and his subsequent silence on the issue have left scientists, both American and foreign-born, in a state of grave uncertainty.

Academic institutions have long relied on an international network from which to source the most successful and talented scientists. This global supply of talent, unrestricted by national boundaries, is critical to the ability of US institutions to compete on a global scale, and this fact is reflected in current policy. While the government caps the number of new H-1B visas awarded to the private sector at 85,000 visas annually, the number of H-1Bs granted to academic and non-profit research institutions is currently unrestricted, demonstrating just how important an unlimited source of international talent is for scientific discovery and innovation. It’s unclear if the Trump administration’s H-1B visa reform will alter or eliminate this protection for…

Osmo Coding Jam game combines programming with music

Osmo has created some of the most creative apps for children with its augmented reality platform for the iPad, and it is launching another such game today called Osmo Coding Jam.

The title incorporates the familiar Osmo system to combine music and computer programming. The system uses a mirror to point the iPad camera in front of the iPad, where it applies computer vision to see blocks that a child puts in front of it. In this case, the blocks are used to program musical notes.

Palo Alto, Calif.-based Osmo believes the rush to teach kids science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) has struck a sour note. The brightest thinkers appreciate art and think creatively, not mechanically. That’s why Osmo has launched a way to learn coding while fostering creativity by making music. In May 2016, Osmo launched its first kids’ programming game, Osmo Coding.

“We wanted to bring creativity to coding,” said Pramod Sharma, the CEO of Osmo, in an interview with GamesBeat. “I see myself as a creative coder. We think the future is about coders and that music is very creative and a very powerful medium. We try to bring them together in this product.”

Above: Osmo Coding Jam brings out the creativity in kids.

Image Credit: Osmo

Thomas Edison played the piano, Albert Einstein played the violin, and recent research found that on average, high school students who studied music appreciation scored better on the SATs, both in the verbal and…

How these 4 women are disrupting the tech scene

Image: FotoshopTofs / pixabay

Despite receiving the same education as their male counterparts, women with STEM degrees (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) are actually less likely to work in a STEM occupation.

One important step to closing the gender gap in STEM fields is sharing the stories of women thriving in these careers — and not just the role models of STEM women in history, but the stories of those in the field today. University of Phoenix believes that shining a spotlight on women who are making waves will help inspire future generations of female tech geniuses.

Following are stories about four intrepid women who are making a name for themselves in tech and who are helping to shape the future of the industry.

Image: University of Phoenix

Meilani Conley

Meilani Conley knew early on that she was destined to pursue a career in science and mathematics. Though the adults in her life tried to dissuade her — telling her that women have fewer opportunities in STEM fields than men — Conley persevered and currently holds a Bachelor of Computer Science and Mathematics from Southwest Baptist University and a Master of Information Systems from University of Phoenix.

Conley’s passion for computers began when she was nine years old. She was constantly fascinated by the inner workings of electronics. While the kids in her class daydreamed about summer vacation, Conley’s mind was filled with metal, wires and electricity. She’s proved that you can beat the status quo by pushing yourself and is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Computer Science from Clarkson University.


Kirsten Hoyt

Kristen Hoyt, Academic Dean for the College of Information Systems and Technology at University of Phoenix, has a lot to say about women pursuing careers in tech.

“In 1996, women made up about 37 percent of the IT workforce, but in 2010 that number dropped to 25 percent,” said Hoyt in one radio interview. In fact, as of 2014, the most common occupations for women were secretaries, administrative assistants, and teachers.

Hoyt’s program at University of Phoenix is directly fighting back to…

Why Men Don’t Make More Than Women Infographic

Why women actually don't make less than men

The claim that women make 77 cents to every dollar men make disregards many choices women make, leading to false claims on social inequality and skewing gender debates.

It’s true, but only if you don’t account for occupations, positions, education, job tenure and hours worked per week which lower the wage gap to about a nickel.

What’s really going on then?

Expectations and sex-based stereotypes push men towards STEM careers (Science Technology Engineering math) and women towards “pink-collar” health and education jobs. The real wage gap is expanded by common choices by gender, like what college major you choose. Males overwhelmingly choose higher paying majors, females lower paying majors. This is abased not…