Dug up this gem of me in my old Progress Energy hardhat when I was back in North Carolina. While its been a few years since I conducted statistical analysis of system reliability, developed meter evaluation processes, and modeled renewable energy interconnection systems and feeders, I still apply much of the same problem solving and analytical thinking to my current projects. The engineer in my loves blueprints, storyboards, spreadsheets, and tinkering.
And were it not for Engineers Without Borders (EWB) my life may have gone in a very different direction. EWB was the impetus for my first company -- Legacy Event Planners. Our eco-arts fundraiser started as an idea to educate folks on sustainable tech and raise money for engineering projects in Sierra Leone and Bolivia. Shout out to the LemonAid Fund in Sierra Leone and Nancy Peddle, who still supports the organization over a decade later. My co-founder for Legacy, William McGuire, studied aerospace engineering and understands how to shoot for the stars in everything he does. Tamara Robertson, host finalist on the last season of MythBusters, has been a champion for women in STEM for over a decade. Guess where we met? EWB. And EWB mentor for chemical engineering, Dr. Peretti, became one of our early board members for Legacy.
Engineers understand the importance of building connections, building systems, and building a better world.
The world needs more engineers. This is why I started #GoBeyond. For every time someone has told me sexism no longer exists or that there are biological reasons why women don’t work in STEM, there are more moments when women reach out to me letting me know they have chosen to enroll in STEM curriculums (science, tech, engineering, math) after hearing me speak or watching my work through social media. Some of these women are in high school, some in college, and some are returning for graduate degrees in the sciences. The strength of these women, who tell me of their STEM choices, makes it worth the fight.
#GoBeyond started as an Instagram account documenting a different woman in STEM everyday but it has quickly grown into so much more.
In January, I hosted a #GoBeyond Hidden Figures panel at Cooper Union where we highlighted real life hidden figures, Avis Yates Rivers, who is CEO and president of Technology Concepts Group International, Dr. Emily Levesque, an astronomer at the University of Washington who studies stars and formerly was a Hubble Telescope postdoctoral fellow; Charlie Oliver, a media expert who recently launched Tech2025 to educate the public on the next wave of disruptive, emerging technologies; and Tamara Robertson, my EWB bestie from a decade ago, and a chemical and biomolecular engineer who hosts Skeptoid Media’s “The Feeding Tube” and was a finalist on the Science Channel’s “Mythbusters: The Search."
The event sold out with over 350 attendees.
“How can we expect to create the best technology when we fail to engage the majority of users, particularly women and people of color, in the development process? This is how information bubbles form, and as we’ve seen from history, bubbles eventually burst. Changing the face of technology is no longer something we can afford to ignore,” says Ms. Rivers, who is a White House Champion of Change and author of Necessary Inclusion: Embracing the Changing Faces of Technology.
After a 45-minute discussion, the panelists met students at an informal gathering. Prof. George Delagrammatikas, associate professor of mechanical engineering and STEM Outreach Program director, who brought the event to The Cooper Union, said, “What I think is particularly powerful about 'Hidden Figures' is that it tells a little known story about how women of color have contributed to science and technology. That’s important because role models are critical for bringing more diversity to the field.”
In November, I was invited to speak at the State of Now conference in LA founded by voiceover internet protocol (VoIP) pioneer Jeff Pulver.
So what's next? I've begun shooting video portraits of women in STEM to build #GoBeyond into a multimedia docuseries. We ask some of society's most pressing scientific questions and we find women who are Nancy Drewing their way to answers. Know a woman we should feature? Shoot me a message via the contact page. Want to get involved? Shoot me a message via the contact page. You've discovered nuclear fusion!? Shoot me a message via the contact page.
And we're organizing a series of global STEM events on International Women's Day on March 18th, 2017. For more info and to get involved.... you guessed it... reach out on the contact page.
In light of recent events, now more than ever, we need champions. We need platforms. And we need storytellers that can win over the hearts and minds of the American people. It's time to identify those female champions, share their stories, and re-engineer the narrative of STEM storytelling.