It’s another engineering “design challenge” at Techbridge, an after-school program for girls that encourages interest in STEM—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—subjects. Close to 30 girls are here this day at Arroyo High School, one of 21 Techbridge sites in California’s Bay Area that serve more than 600 elementary and secondary girls in total, close to 90 percent of whom are minority students.
While Techbridge still operates a number of after-school programs like Arroyo’s, its other related STEM initiatives, scaled by large national funders like the National Science Foundation, Google, and the Noyce Foundation have enabled the organization to reach in excess of 10,000 girls in the out-of-school-time space to date.
Those efforts coincide with the national momentum to teach STEM curricula outside traditional school walls, targeting minority, underprivileged, and female students not well represented in the STEM professions. Such environments could be a catalyst, some believe, that shifts students’ attitudes about STEM through innovative teaching methods not bound by the same protocol of the school day.
According to Techbridge Executive Director Linda Kekelis, the statistics on who pursues STEM careers has more to do with conditioning than predisposition. With the right curriculum and right environment, she said, it’s possible to change a student’s mind.