SparkED

We help educate and provide STEM resources to youth to increase awareness of opportunities for self growth and sustaining the environment

Photo of Pari Latawa
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Eligibility: Please confirm you meet all the following criteria

  • You are aged between 14 - 18 as of August 1, 2020
  • You live in the United States or its territories
  • You are not employed by, or directly related (grand parents, parents or siblings) to a current General Motors (GM) or Ashoka employee
  • You have been working on this project for at least three months
  • You consent to us possibly featuring your work on social media
  • You confirm you have the rights to use and share any content uploaded on this entry form

Eligibility: Date of Birth

October 12, 2004

What gender do you identify with?

  • Female

Help us stay in touch!

Mailing Address: 11000 Arbole Cove, Texas: Austin (78739) Phone Number: 512-785-4167 Email: paridhi.latawa@gmail.com

Website or social media url(s) (optional):

Website: https://sparkedorg.weebly.com/

Date You Started Your Project Started

April / 5 / 2019

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Scaling (expanding impact to many new places or in many new ways)

1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

As an avid scientific community member, I noticed that many aspiring students missed timely exposure to many interdisciplinary fields of STEM like environmental science, genetics, & more due to a lack of guidance & role models. Girls statistically err on the side of caution & are less likely to explore. It is important to provide meaningful insight into STEM to improve scientific literacy for environmental sustainability & community outreach.

2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

Inspired by visits to Title I elementary schools, I realized that basic support from high schoolers stimulated younger students’ lifelong passions for learning. This was further confirmed by visits to schools in low socioeconomic areas in India, where students who lacked the right guidance & role models still wanted a decent job to support their families. This ​inspired me to create my organization, SparkED, with the goal of providing STEM resources to youth to enable them to make informed decisions about their life & world. This is achieved by speaker series, tech literacy camps, mentoring, tutoring, partnerships, & summits. So far, we’ve influenced 1000+ minds through talks by scientists & professors where personal & career experiences are shared. We partnered to host tech literacy camps to mothers from low income families as a way to help the entire household. We facilitated high school science programs by Harvard University in Austin for students who can’t afford to travel as a form of personalized guidance. For every child with increased scientific literacy, environmental issue awareness increases allowing for further mobilization of actions for a sustainable & better world!

3. Using STEM as a force of good: Please specify how are you using STEM to solve for an environmental challenge you are passionate about.

SparkED aims to instill the principles of basic scientific literacy in young minds across the globe, especially in developing countries, so that they are ready to explore & become responsible citizens of the Earth. Research, and scientific & technical innovation, is critical in saving the environment, reducing the impact of global warming and climate change, cleaning up pollution, & self-care. Being knowledgeable about various fields in STEM is critical for youth to foster their curiosity of how the world we live in was formed & works today. My organization offers these young minds a way to channelize their energy in learning & in turn for the betterment of the environment & globe. By imparting the right scientific knowledge, we try to direct their minds for a social cause to act responsibly in following the rules like not to litter, correct trash bins to use, & how to prevent spread of diseases. Environment is a field of science. Being scientifically knowledgeable makes them acknowledge the gift of nature & work to keep it good. The social nature of Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics is amplified when environmental phenomena are the subject of investigation.

4. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?

I am fortunate to have parents as experts in computer science & engineering who introduced me to the wonders of STEM. Joining Science Olympiad offered me a sublime chance to compete & win at MIT, UPenn, & 7th place at Nationals in environmentally targeted events: Ecology, Water Quality & Meteorology--from which I understood the many tortures Mother Nature faces. By meeting Title 1 Elementary students to discuss experiments & climate change, I was inspired to start SparkED to build a healthy & sustainable environment. After working in Texas A&M NCTM biotech labs, I was saddened by the amount of plastic waste from science labs across the globe: I wanted to find a more sustainable solution! Combining my organization's philanthropic efforts with my desire to gain scientific academic prowess, my life mission is to innovate, research, explore, & help the community for a sustainable future.

5. Video (Keep it simple, a video made on a hand-held phone is great): Please upload a 1-minute video to YouTube that answers the following “I am stepping up to be a Changemaker because...”

In the future we hope to organize an annual conference for all to attend and learn more about STEM. We are honored to receive this opportunity to work with General Motors and Ashoka to create a sustainable and knowledgeable future!

6. Please highlight the key activities you have carried out to bring your project to life.

I have inspired 1000+ youth by organizing citywide talks by professionals, motivating my peers through keynote speeches at District Summits, hosting camps by Harvard students in Austin at low costs, creating summits in India to guide girls from low socioeconomic areas, partnering for tech literacy programs to mothers from underserved communities, & by researching & presenting on Vaping at Austin Science Fair. I have fostered knowledgeable minds, ready to serve Earth on a path of sustainability.

7. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

SparkED offers resources to youth to increase their literacy & engagement in STEM for a successful life. We aim to fill the gap of minimal annual conferences, summits, & talks for families to increase appreciation of our environment and science awareness. We showcase interdisciplinary fields of STEM, further sparking a deeper passion for science. We inform future generations of developments and issues of our society like CRISPR & excess use of natural resources. We admire other organizations in our community & hope in future, we will better target minority groups by symbiotic partnerships.

8. Impact: In the last three months, please detail the impact your project has made?

In the past few months, SparkED hosted a summit for 50+ girls in grades 5-12 from low socioeconomic regions in North India. We provided guidance & support to keep them motivated & engaged in school. We worked with Harvard Students & Dell Medical School Doctors to organize Pre-Med camps for high schoolers. We tutored students in 5-9th grade, especially during CoVID pandemic, with all earnings donated to CoVID relief. We hosted a talk with Dell Medical School’s Medical Director on ways youth can keep themselves & their ecosystem healthy. Early spring, I presented my findings on the Vaping pandemic at the Austin Energy Regional Science Fair & won the Superintendent’s award! With these events, we have recently reached an audience of 400+ individuals. We hope that we can expand our reach immensely in future, so that we can help more young children foster their creativity & love for learning!

9. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

Moving forward, I want SparkED to establish an annual conference focused on underserved students with panels of STEM speakers, mini labs, partner organizations, & other teen leaders. This annual conference will be an admirable series of events aimed to inspire youth, particularly low-income, in exploring possibilities in STEM to better our world. Additionally, we want to open more chapters & create more global summits in addition to continuing the series in India so that global positivity and sustainability is promoted more. I want SparkED to increase partnerships to spread the social cause of education.

10. Please share how you have influenced other young people to get involved in your project and/or care about environmental sustainability.

Inviting my friends to join my team at events makes me joyous as I share a big part of my identity, as a scientist, with them! I see them falling in love with science, as I have! As I taught tech literacy to mothers, I made sure their daughters were also engaged in learning. After hosting a talk with a doctor in the fields of anthropology, environmental safety & medicine, a peer told me he never knew such an integration existed! Now each time I host a talk, I see his eager face in the audience!

11. Please share ideas of how you can partner with other changemakers to make a difference?

SparkED will partner with UT Austin Office of Sustainability, Keep Austin Beautiful, & Environment Texas which all work to increase advocacy & knowledge of environmental problems. This way, we will develop socially responsible, well-educated youth who care for the environment’s wellbeing. SparkED to partner with MD Anderson Cancer Center & General Motors & Ashoka to allow young children to visit & be amazed by scientific advancements.

12. How would you engage others who have never heard about your project to get their buy-in?

I believe that STEM literacy, more than anything, is vital in order to implement changes & increase global sustainability. Only once people understand what their futures will look like, they will become more aware of changes to be implemented to fix problems & why--for global sustainability, as well as other fields that uniquely address challenges & find solutions to them. By explaining this in conjunction with past efforts & future aspirations, I hope to engage others & get their buy-in.

13. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Friend support
  • Family support
  • Mentors/advisors

References

Ms. Shweta Latawa: shweta.latawa@gmail.com, 713-972-2217 Ms. Alicia Salinas: alicia.salinas2@austinisd.org Ms. Josephine Skaer: josephine.skaer@austinisd.org, 512-920-9690

Are you employed, or directly related (grand-parents, parents, sibling) to a GM or Ashoka employee?

  • No

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 [optional] Which of the following categories do you identify with?

  • Asian (for example: Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Pakistani) (9)

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 [optional] Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities?

  • Communities of color
  • Religious minority (non-Christian)

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Social media
  • Search engine
  • Recommended by others
  • Participated in previous Ashoka challenges

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4 comments

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Spam
Photo of Carson McBain
Team

You're tackling STEM literacy from a variety of angles which is great to see. The different groups and demographics you mentioned - kids, moms, girls from low socio-economic backgrounds in India - shows that you are thinking not only how you can reach more people, but how you can reach those who can benefit most. I would suggest that in your pitch you focus on what makes your STEM education initiative unique from others, since this is a topic many are currently addressing - whether that be your omnidirectional approach, involving college students such as those at Harvard, etc. If you are able to collect some 'before and after' testimonials from people who attended the talks and events, that would be really impactful to share as you seek funding and additional support. Great work and best of luck to you!

Spam
Photo of Pari Latawa
Team

Thank you, I appreciate your insight! I do believe the omnidirectional approach as well as the goal of involving the entire community also sets SparkED apart and I will make sure to emphasize that! I have been able to collect some "after" testimonials and they can be found in the attachments section. I will make sure to add a "before" component.

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