Google and the Girl Scouts of Western Washington are inspiring girls in underrepresented communities to pursue careers in STEM. Among their recruits are eight Snoqualmie Scouts, members of the robotics team Bionic Girlz, who were invited to join State Representative Nicole Macri at Google’s Fremont Campus Nov. 10.
The girls, part of a group of 80, had the chance to demonstrate the progress they’ve made on their robots, participate in a STEM activity, and tour Google’s campus, in celebration of a $50,000 grant from Google.org to the Girl Scouts.
In this region, only 10 percent of students earning STEM degrees come from underrepresented minorities. Additionally, women in Washington earn STEM degrees at one-third of the rate of their male counterparts.
To change these statistics, Google.org provided $50,000 in funding for the Girl Scouts to create and support 14 robotics teams for girls from South King County, Skagit, and Cowlitz counties, all historically underserved by STEM programming.
The cost of program fees is sometimes a barrier to participation in the Washington FIRST Robotics league, and the grant will allow GSWW to subsidize up to 25 percent of these costs per team to widen access to girls from low income communities.
The funds will also cover the costs of operating the program. Girls in the program share in a cooperative robotics project from June – February to build a robot, develop a solution to a global science problem, and demonstrate core values including “coopertition,” teamwork, and discovery.
“These students are inspiring,” said Darcy Nothnagle, head of external affairs for the NW at Google. “We are delighted to be involved in a compelling program that provides opportunities and inspiration to girls to help bridge the STEM gap.”
This expansion program reaches Girl Scouts in neighborhoods that historically have limited access to STEM programming. According to school district data and census information, students in these areas are not meeting state standards in science and math, poverty is significantly higher than the national average, and over 55 percent of students qualify for free and reduced lunch.
“In our region, only 10 percent of students earning STEM degrees come from underrepresented minorities,” said Megan Ferland, GSWW CEO. “By reaching girls in these neighborhoods, we are addressing some of the most urgent issues confronting girls in the U.S. today. We love watching girls light up when they find their passion for robotics and have the resources to explore it.”
Through participation in FIRST Robotics, girls in grades K-12 will explore STEM subjects in a collaborative, all-girl environment and demonstrate their knowledge, mastery and excitement in statewide competition. The project is a component of the Girl Scouts’ strategic diversity and equity efforts across western Washington and is expected to reach 150 girls this year.