EduSTEM creates opportunities for underprivileged youth to pursue STEM

Three Bellevue students level the playing field in diversity in STEM

Archika Dogra, a junior at Interlake High School, has been passionate about STEM since she was a kid. She was so excited when her parents sent her to her first programming camp. When she walked in, she noticed the demographic of the students seemed to be unbalanced. There were 30 boys and one girl sitting in the corner. She didn’t know where she fit in, much less participate.

This was the first time she realized there was such a large disparity in STEM fields.

She wasn’t the only one. Evelyn Chen and Maya Srikanth, both juniors at Newport High School, also noticed a large imbalance in the demographics represented in the STEM fields.

In the summer before their sophomore year, Dogra, Chen and Srikanth created EduSTEM. This youth-run program seeks to empower underrepresented minorities to pursue different careers in STEM and work toward achieving equality for all racial, socioeconomic and gender minorities in STEM.

“We saw that often when you look around STEM classes, you see a lot of the same sort of person represented again and again and it’s primarily white and Asian males who dominate the STEM field,” Chen said. “We really wanted to reach out to these other kids and show that they could also be represented in these spaces and that their ideas are also valuable.”

EduSTEM works with local elementary school-aged kids in the area and has been hosting before school STEM workshops at Bellevue’s Jubilee Reach.

“We seek to really reach out to those diverse groups of individuals and we do so through hands-on workshops over a continuous period of time. So it’s not just a one-time thing but we deal with the same kids, and we have been for over a year now,” Dogra said. “It’s been really great like watching them grow.”

EduSTEM has taught over 120 students, third through fifth grade, over the last year. Each workshop is held every first and third Wednesday of the month. Dogra, Chen and Srikanth write the curriculum and teach the children themselves. Each workshop lasts for about 45 minutes and they provide the students an interactive activity that’s focused around a particular STEM-related topic. For example, they would present the students with a battery and then teach them how a battery works and how it relates to electrical engineering.

Last January, EduSTEM hosted its first annual Girl’s Day. The all-day event was held at Interlake High School. The event featured inspiring talks from two prominent women in STEM but focused on launching the girls into a day full of STEM related activities, rotating through computer science, robotics and lab science related projects. By the end of the day, the girls had come away coding their own Magic 8 Ball in Python, building a robot that followed a lit path and solving the mystery of the stolen dogs with chromatography and blood sampling techniques.

Dogra and Chen said it’s been rewarding working with local youths in STEM.

“Being able to bond with these kids while providing them opportunities they may not have had otherwise is amazing,” Chen said.

Dogra said it’s important to bring inclusive environments to underprivileged and underrepresented minorities.

“Having people feel like they are represented and that they matter in STEM fields is important,” she said.

EduSTEM is expanding to more than just Bellevue. They have opened chapters in San Mateo, California, New York, New York and Thailand.

“‘Educate, encourage and empower’ is our motto. We believe that everyone, regardless of socioeconomic background, gender, or race, deserves an opportunity to pursue STEM on the same playing field as their peers,” Dogra said. “We want to see a future with a more diverse STEM field—it can only lead to good things.”

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