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And so, using what we learned from our Generation STEM


study, and our experience in girl leadership development, we have created focused programming around STEM fields for girls of all ages. By engaging in these STEM-related Journeys and earning National Proficiency Badges, girls explore a variety of STEM-related subjects. We know that girls are more interested in STEM careers when they know how their work can help others. We empha- size learning by doing and a cooperative learning environment because we know that, particularly with STEM, youth need to be hands-on, active learners.


Most companies didn’t want to make that investment, because the girl would grow, of course, and the hand would have to be constantly recalibrated until she became an adult. Finally, they found a special partner—the Flying Monkeys, a Girl Scout Troop from Ames, Iowa, willing to invest their time, energy and resources to try and do what pharmaceuti- cal companies wouldn’t. They worked tirelessly, doing research, speaking to profes- sionals, collecting their supplies and successfully manufactur- ing a working prosthetic hand for the girl, and then going on to compete in a global robotics competition, which they won. They claimed a $20,000 prize, with which they are now working to patent their device—which they lovingly named “Bob 1.”


When I think about the Flying Monkeys, I’m in awe. This is what can happen when we unlock the power of girls—when we give them the platform, the encouragement, and the skills they need to achieve. So how can we encourage STEM development among girls?


First, we must focus on elementary and middle school girls. Activating their interests and encourag- ing their pursuits when they are young helps build confidence and diminishes the effect of later peer pressures.


The Flying Monkeys, a Girl Scout troop from Ames, Iowa, helped design and manufacture a prosthetic hand for a three-year-old from China.


In general, girls prefer a collaborative leadership style, rather than the traditional, top-down, “command and control” approach. The cooperative learning process gives girls the op- portunity to develop leadership and STEM skills in a way that feels comfortable and natural for them.


The Flying Monkeys


Does the Girl Scout approach work? A few years ago a beautiful three-year-old girl from China was adopted by an American family in Georgia. This little girl was born without fingers on one of her hands, and her new family decided they wanted to get her help. They took to the internet, where they spoke to researchers, doctors, and medical supply companies. They found that what they were looking for was simply not on market—they wanted a prosthetic hand for a three-year-old.


Second, we must encourage partnerships with out-of-school and summer programs. Taking STEM education out of the classroom and into the real world is so important for girls.


Third, we must expose girls to more female role models in the STEM fields. We need adult involvement: parents, fathers especially, must encourage their daughters not to opt out of STEM careers just because they are girls. Instead, nurture and encourage their development in these fields, and create an atmosphere where that interest is normal and expected. And finally, we must continue evaluating national programs and partnerships to learn what works and what doesn’t when it comes to girls and STEM.


The message is clear: STEM is the future, and so are girls. When girls engage, like the Flying Monkeys did, they have the capacity to change the world. It is so important that we are making this crucial investment in girls in STEM. To do so is to invest in the future of our economy, our country, and our world. ME


June 2014 | ManufacturingEngineeringMedia.com 103

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