STEM Roundup: Few Women of Color Are STEM Professors

A roundup of recent science, technology, engineering and math news.

The three stars of GoldieBlox's viral ad, which encourages girls to try engineering.
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GoldieBlox Takes On Super Bowl Ad Competition

SAN FRANCISCO - The Oakland-based toy company GoldieBlox, whose signature toy is a set of blocks designed to stimulate girls’ interest in engineering, moved to bust into the biggest male arena ever: the Super Bowl. The company entered Intuit's first-ever Small Business -- Big Game competition, where one commercial from a small company will be played during the Super Bowl in 2014. Currently there are just four companies in the running to make it into the million-dollar (and potentially lucrative) Super Bowl commercial club. The Goldieblox ad, which you can watch here, breaks down the idea that girls should be given less-practical or functional learning toys than boys -- and revamps the popular Beastie Boys song "Girls" to give the commercial a harder yet playful edge.

Study: African American Women STEM Profs Are Scarce, Face Steep Hurdles

WASHINGTON - A new think-tank report shows that women of color who teach those subjects are woefully underrepresented in the college ranks. The study by Institute of Women’s Policy Research showed that, in 2010, African American women, Latinos, Native Americans and other minority women comprised just 2.1 percent of STEM faculty at four-year colleges and universities in the United States, while comprising 13 percent of the U.S. working-age population. In contrast, men held 58 percent of these positions, while making up 35 percent of the working-age population. The highest level of representation for minority women faculty is in the life sciences and the lowest is in computer science and mathematics. The IWPR report also revealed that, while women's earnings in most STEM fields are higher than in most female-dominated occupations, women of color in faculty positions face unique challenges, such as hostile workplace climates, work-life balance issues and the failure of many academic departments to embrace diversity.

LinkedIn’s DREAM Act Hackathon Tries to Crack Immigration Code

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. - Computer geeks dedicated to figuring out the nation's complicated and controversial immigration problem joined tech luminaries Nov. 21 as part of a "DREAMer Hackathon" at LinkedIn’s Silicon Valley headquarters, NBC News reported. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's political action committee,, sponsored the 25-hour event so that 20 undocumented DREAMers -- young people who, when they were children, came to the United States illegally with their parents -- from across the country could work with with top product designers, engineers and other hacker on prototypes for advocacy tools to help advance meaningful immigration reform.

First-Ever High School Student-Built Satellite Blasts Off

FAIRFAX, Va. - Hurtling into space on a blaze of flame, a satellite developed by students from Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology became the first designed by high school students to make it into space. The launch of TJ3Sat from NASA’s Wallops Island facility in Virginia in mid-November was visible across the eastern seaboard in the clear night sky, and was the culmination of seven years of work for more than 50 students from TJ, as the Fairfax County magnet school is known. The satellite is designed to receive messages the students send into space, and it will then rebroadcast those messages using radio waves that can be heard around the globe via ham radio, The Washington Post reported.

Solving for D’Oh!: Prof Shows ‘The Simpsons’ Celebrates Math on the Sly

With a Ph.D in particle physics and a math documentary under his belt, Simon Singh may not sound like your average fan of “The Simpsons.” Yet as a math geek, he’s found kindred spirits in Bart, Lisa, Homer and the people who write episodes for the animated series. In his new book, “The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets,” Singh argues that the Simpsons’ writers - who include a surprisingly large number with science or mathematics in their backgrounds - constantly slip math jokes, references or actual calculations into nearly every episode. "There are lots of mathematicians on the Simpson's [writing team]…and they still have a great affection towards numbers and geometry," Singh said on the Inquiring Minds podcast.

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