Covestro inspires girl students in India with #STEM4Girls2019 Festival
In their life’s first ever hands-on science experiment, the girls learnt to light up an LED with a battery and copper tape, mixed two polymer compounds and added food grade colour to make colorful polymer putty and extracted their own DNA and adorned it as a necklace. The team behind the campaign broke ice with the girls by encouraging them to draw the circuit as art is closer to their heart. Art also found a conspicuous place on their laboratory coats, further personalizing the experience and the emotion.
Barring an initial set of instructions, the girls are really left to push their own boundaries to figure it out. They truly lived Covestro’s principles - #Curious #Courageous and #Colourful as they explored, struggled till they found their way out. This year, even their teachers were engaged as participants and encouraged to explore their knowledge with these experiment kits.
This year, the girls brought in as participants were mostly from those schools where laboratories have been installed as a part of Covestro’s Brighter World Lab project. Such schools include government and government-aided schools, municipal schools, tribal schools, and a few private schools, mostly from the vernacular medium. Respecting their regional language, the speakers spoke in Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati and Tamil wherever possible, to be to able create a deeper connection with the girls.
This programme is carried out on ground with the support of local volunteers, who are typically female college students studying in science or, are undertaking teacher training. They are adequately briefed about the STEM4Girls approach and philosophy. For example, it is important for the participants to be allowed to make mistakes. “Are you alright?” is what they hear should something go wrong. They are encouraged to repeat the experiment any number of times until they get it right.
77 volunteers were engaged during the workshops in 2019. Having them on board to conduct the experiment sessions was also one of the levers for motivation for the participants. “I can do it” is the feeling with which each participant leaves with.
The speakers at #STEM4Girls2019 hailed from diverse professions like scientific research, academics, medicine, engineering, space science and administration. The zeal and zest of our speakers, broke myths about women and STEM-related careers, ignited young minds and filled them with dreams of a myriad possibilities.
Watch this video to see our speakers sending out waves of inspiration!
Our elite speaker list for this season:
Dr. Dhruvi Bharwad, Social Research Officer with Space Applications Centre, ISRO
Geeta Sharma – Principal, Shree Shyam Singh Smarak Vidyalaya, Noida
Dr. Kusum Rawal – Gynaecologist, Dharampur
Dr. Krishna Rajput – Lecturer, Deptt Zoology, K.B.S. College, Vapi
Jharna Taneja, Deputy Chief Engineer, Nuclear Power Corporation of India, NTPC
Hetal Pandiya – Scientist/ Engineer, Space Applications Centre, ISRO - Ankaleshwar
Dr. Manasi Rajyadhyaksha – Founder, Concept Unlimited and Science Communicator, Marathi Vigyaan Parishad
Dr. Kamakshi Bhate – Emeritus Professor, Community Medicine, KEM Hospital Mumbai
Dr. Nishigandha Naik – Director – Haffkine Institute for Training, Research and Testing, Mumbai
Dr. Sunali Khanna – Professor, Nair Hospital Dental College, Mumbai
Professor Vidita Vaidya – Deptt. of Biological Sciences, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai
Prof. Shubha Tole – Deptt of Biological Sciences, TIFR, Mumbai
Maria Einig – Deputy Consul General of Federal Republic of Germany
Shivaprasad Khened – Director, Nehru Science Centre, Mumbai
Melissa Raincourt – Chairman & Founder, Greenlight for Girls
Chintan Joshi – Head, Corporate Communications, Covestro India
Testimonials from a few girl students who participated in #STEM4Girls2019:
Veena Dubey, Mumbai – “We got a chance to learn new things as well as to revise concepts that we had read about in our textbooks. This experience almost made us feel that we are already scientists!”Krisha Rajput, Dharampur –“We had never done such experiments that we did during this workshop. I admire the attitude of the organizers towards girls and we hope that this event happens here every year.”
To get a more comprehensive picture about the STEM4Girls project, click here
Let us take a tour through the five locations and see how the girls fared at each of the locations.
Noida: November 4-9, 2019
812 girls across 10 schools waited with abated breath to join the STEM4Girls sessions as political turmoil and weather disturbances derailed our schedule.
Coming from a rather conservative section of the society, the girls deemed it a privilege and had a sense of pride to wear the laboratory coat and conduct the experiments. They were egged on to show their work to their families and share their pride.
In fact, the Noida sessions showed us how we could explore ‘Nature Vs. Nurture’. Art was brought into this introduction to STEM, where they were asked to draw how the lit-up LED would look like when connected to the circuit. This helped them cover the ground from their zone of comfort to an idea that was brand new for them.
Geeta Sharma, Principal, Shree Shyam Singh Smarak Vidyalaya, Noida - “At the phase of your life you are in, decide your goal, think about which field you might want to pursue your career in and invest your efforts in that direction with focus.”
Names of participating schools-
Dharampur: November 14-16, 2019
Nestled amidst lush green surroundings, Dharampur clocked the highest number of girls per day across locations. In fact, a particular school expressed interest to send a greater number of girls when we were almost set to start the scheduled activities. Going by the spirit of Covestro, #WhyNot?, they were roped in reaching the mark of 1024 girls across 42 schools in a span of 5 days. In fact, having more than 300 girls attending the session on a particular day was an accomplishment by itself.
The sessions at Dharampur were also marked with excellent speakers. In fact, Dr. Krishna Rajput, Lecturer, Department of Zoology, K.B.S. College, Vapi, set the stage with a radical remark saying, “We, as girls, don’t need a mike. We can make ourselves heard whenever required.”
Dr. Krishna Rajput, Lecturer – “Whatever you might do after 20-25 years in future, make sure that the world knows you for who you are. You must strive at getting a lab coat with your name on it.”
Dr. Kusum Rawal, Gynecologist - “Make yourself so capable that should you face any challenges in life later, you would be strong enough to handle them by yourselves.”
List of participating schools:
Ankaleshwar: November 18-21, 2019
Drawing 813 girls from 15 schools, the first year of the STEM4Girls in Ankleshwar, was quite successful. The students were also beginning to make connections with the little experiments they have conducted at their laboratories in schools, which were installed as part of the BrighterWorldLab project.
Hetal Pandiya, Scientist/ Engineer, Space Applications Centre (SCA), ISRO - Ankaleshwar – “Whether you study science or mathematics, always remember 3 things. Firstly, try to understand what’s written there, Secondly, what’s their use and thirdly, ask how they can be applied in your everyday life.”
Dr. Dhruvi Bharwad, Social Research Officer with Space Applications Centre (SCA), ISRO – “Scientists are people like you. They are not made from any different soil. We are all made from the same soil.”
Adar Fatima, Science teacher, Pioneer Jitali High School, Ankaleshwar – “Our girls are very happy after conducting the experiments and they might want to pursue science in higher studies.”
Cuddalore: December 5, 2019
Located barely 23 kms from the town of Pondicherry, Cuddalore is a rather traditional town with archaic systems of education. Imagine classrooms with only 3 walls with no separation from the corridor! – yes, this is how a couple of schools that the team visited looked like. The quality of education received by the students in such a noisy environment is always debatable.
STEM4Girls was an exciting proposition for the schools and girl students in the town, who even battled floods to be there! 211 girls from 6 schools performed the experiments with great zest and zeal. They are waiting for STEM4Girls2020 already!
List of participating schools:
Mumbai: 1316 girls – December 9-13, 2019
Conducted at the vibrant venue, Nehru Science Centre, Mumbai, a diverse population of 1316 girls from 33 schools participated in the STEM4Girls, and conducted a science experiment for the first time in their life. The girls were encouraged to conduct the experiments with each other if they couldn’t do it alone, until the last girl in the batch emerged victorious.
An impressive line-up of high caliber speakers helped elevate the girls’ self-esteem and aspirations to what they are worth. Professor Vidita Vaidya sowed the seed of a beautiful dream in the hearts of the girls in the room. She said, “Would it not be unbelievably exciting and delightful if the next Brain Bee Olympiad winner of the world were sitting in this room?!”
For most, it was also the first time ever that they were meeting a scientist or a successful, woman STEM professional. The speakers struck a chord with the girls by speaking in Marathi and Hindi and met the girls where they are.
Dr. Manasi Rajyadhyaksha, Founder, Concept Unlimited and Science Communicator, Marathi Vigyaan Parishad – “Science is not only present in textbooks but in our homes, kitchens, stories we hear. Start reading stories of famous Indian scientists”
Dr. Kamakshi Bhate – Emeritus Professor, Community Medicine, KEM Hospital Mumbai – “Each one of us should have a goal for ourselves and must work towards it, else dreams won’t come true! Stay strong and fearless!”
Shivaprasad Khened, Director, Nehru Science Centre, Mumbai – “Becoming a scientist gives one great joy. If you are passionate about any subject you learn, then you will get more joy out of it. That is how you will be able to achieve a lot for yourself, for your families and contribute towards the nation as well.”
Prof. Shubha Tole, Deptt. of Biological Sciences, TIFR, Mumbai, “Each scientist has his/her own story. You have to script your own story for your life.”
List of participating schools: