STEM Roundup: Solving the STEM Dilemma for Minorities

A roundup of recent science, technology, education and mathematics news.

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As Black Girls Code, Parents Try To Solve STEM Dilemma

NEW YORK - About 60 African American girls learned the basics of computer programming at Google, Inc.’s office as their parents talked about how to overcome the gender and racial barriers that stop African American women from entering STEM fields. The Associated Press reports the event, sponsored by Black Girls Code, looked to boost interest in computer programming among black women, a segment of the population now poorly represented in the high technology workforce. The National Center for Women & Information Technology says black women comprised only 3 percent of the computer workforce and Latinas 1 percent in 2011 -- the year Kimberly Bryant started Black Girls Code in San Francisco to encourage young and pre-teen girls of color to take an interest in technology and computer programming.

New Robot Toys Prompts Kids to Code On The Sly

Learning how to code is challenging enough for adults, so asking kids to sit down and write a line of code almost seems absurd. But that’s the problem that led Vikas Gupta, the former head of consumer payments at Google, to create Play-i and a couple of kid-friendly, educational robots. TechCrunch reports that Gupta, with co-founders Saurabh Gupta, an Apple veteran, and Mikal Greaves, a design leader at Frog Design, created Bo and Yana, two programmable, interactive robots that look and act a lot like toys. The team raised $1 million last year to build the prototypes and though it’s still tinkering with details today, the learning system is nearly ready for lift-off. When it comes to market next year, kids will be able to play with Bo and Yana right out of the box, controlling them through Play-i’s companion app designed for the iPad.

Lawmakers Want More Women, Minorities, Poor in STEM ‘Pipeline’

BINGHAMPTON, N.Y. - Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) announced legislation that would open up opportunities in STEM education for women, minorities and low-income students, TV station WBNG reports. Gillibrand and Rep. Joe Kennedy (D- Mass.) said they want to create federal grants for schools teaching those subjects. Gillibrand added that the goal is to help the U.S. become more competitive in the global economy by encouraging more lower-income students, minorities and women to enter the “STEM pipeline.”

Big Apple STEM Overhaul Draws Best, Brightest, Job Seekers

NEW YORK - The revolution in science, technology, engineering and math instruction taking place in New York classrooms has turned the city into a global icon for cutting-edge education at every level, the Daily News reports. From Mayor Bloomberg’s billion-dollar bet on the city’s four new, elite “genius” universities, to overhauls underway in public schools from Brooklyn to the Bronx, STEM education has transformed the city’s landscape and its future. But to students like Josephine Larbi, 14, a freshman at the Bronx Academy for Software Engineering, the city’s digital revolution is about something much simpler: learning skills that can lead to a job. “I want to work in Web design or programming,” said Josephine, a member of the inaugural class at BASE, a futuristic classroom in a tough neighborhood. Every student at BASE is getting an education in computer programming designed to lead to a job after graduation or a slot in college. Students work with mentors from local tech companies, which can lead to internships.

Beasties, GoldieBlox Court Fight: No Sleep ‘Till Justice

SAN FRANCISCO - The Beastie Boys rap group has filed a countersuit against STEM toy manufacturer GoldieBlox, according to the tech site GeekWorld, claiming that the company’s parody of their song still qualifies as copyright infringement, and that the original use of the band’s name is trademark infringement. GoldieBlox, which makes toys designed to spur girls’ interest in STEM, had asked for declaratory judgment ruling that the company’s use of “Girls” was protected under Fair Use, after the Boys’ lawyers allegedly called the company with legal threats. The original ad changed the lyrics of the song to celebrate girls getting into technology and engineering, and features a Rube Goldberg machine made out of traditional toys. After harsh words from the Beasties, Debbie Sterling, GoldieBlox’s founder, pulled the music from the ad and changed the title, saying that the company would happily drop its lawsuit if the band backed off, too.


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