STEMinate

We aim to provide STEM opportunities to students in under-privileged communities and use science research to address environmental issues.

Photo of PERISA ASHAR
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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

03/15/2003

What gender do you identify with?

  • Female

Help us stay in touch!

Phone number: 804-291-7885 Address: 11920 Blairmont Place Virginia: Glen Allen (23059)

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

Website: thesteminate.com Facebook: Steminate Initiative Instagram: @steminate.organization

Date You Started Your Project Started

09/13/2017

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

  • Established (successfully passed early phases, have a plan for the future)

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

There is a lack of diversity in STEM. Women fill 24% of STEM jobs. Less than 10% of females of minority races (African-Americans/Latinos/Asians) have a degree in environmental science. There is a lack of STEM enrichment & research opportunities, and important earth science subjects are not taught to students. We need to increase awareness for environmental issues (e.g: climate change, ocean acidification) to students for the next generation.

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

We began our STEMinate nonprofit organization, seeking to encourage and inspire students from various backgrounds to pursue STEM-related fields, as well as using scientific research to help our community. Using a versatile approach, we plan to expand knowledge of STEM-related fields and environmental science subjects with in-person workshops and through online modules via our website, for students to access worldwide. Our website includes online PowerPoints, science kits instructions, and coding tutorials related to ocean acidification, climate change, and other STEM fields. We use scientific research to solve some of our most pressing environmental challenges, and share our findings to students from under-served communities. We plan to continue our virtual scientific journal, where students worldwide can share published research studies or news on global warming, ocean acidification, CO2 emissions, or share findings from their own independent science experiments about various environmental topics. STEMinate hopes to further refine our published app, “STEMinate: Spectacular Science”, which helps middle school students learn about standardized science and environmental subjects.

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.

Our organization performs novel scientific research to address some of the most pressing environmental problems and their health-related challenges. Our co-founder, David Kang, did patent-pending research on the inhibition of methane-producing bacteria using novel β-carboline derivatives from the human gut. Chemical synthesis was performed on β-carboline substrates to produce six different derivatives, which all showed growth inhibition of methanogens. The results of this investigation offer new insights into the possible solutions in decreasing methane levels from livestock globally to slow down global warming. Using bioinformatics and polymerase chain-reactions (PCR), our cofounder Perisa developed a blood-based biomarker panel for the rapid noninvasive detection of lung cancer, quite common in air-polluted and radiated environments. STEMinate has published two apps, “STEMinate: Spectacular Science” and “STEMinate: Miraculous Math,” to help students learn fundamentals of standardized science (biology, earth science, and astronomy) and math subjects. On our website, we create science kits for students to learn about oil spills, renewable energy, pollution, & greenhouse effects.

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

We became fascinated by the process of using science experiments to solve environmental and healthcare challenge at classes hosted by our local Math Science Innovation Center (MSiC), where we learned activities like extracting DNA from strawberries or learning about ecosystem in the James River. However, at many of these STEM classes, we noted a lack of diversity. While presenting our science research at the international Intel ISEF science fair, we met participants from various countries who also agreed that STEM was inaccessible to minorities from their under-served communities. We wanted to solve this global problem with a versatile approach, aiming to make STEM not only accessible to students from various localities, but also encourage students to advocate for STEM education and major global issues (such as climate change), as well as use science research to fix these problems.

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...”

Although STEMinate is an educational initiative, aiming to increase the diversity within STEM-related fields, we also place a huge emphasis on the development of novel science research to improve our every day lives & environmental issues. We not only provide in-person workshops, but keep the same curriculum needed for these events via our website (for students to access worldwide). Every day, we constantly brainstorm additional ways to deliver STEM education for all (like via apps or webinars).

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

STEMinate developed & presented 2 science projects (stated above) at the Intel ISEF fair, national Junior Science & Humanities Symposium, & international GENIUS Olympiad Challenge (world’s largest environmental/sustainability science fair). We taught programming+science lessons at the MSiC & 4H chapter for home-schooled students. After our county halted funding for the MSiC, STEMinate led an online petition (with 2000+ signatures) & advocated for its importance at educational board meetings.

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

STEMinate has a broad focus (instead of a specific goal) and thus is flexible in addressing multiple STEM & environmental issues. We integrate various topics (novel science research, STEM lesson plans, advocacy) to improve our environment & STEM participation among youth. Using versatility to deliver our curriculum, we are 1 of few organizations that provides many open-access resources on our website (including science kits, personalized coding tutorials, fundraisers, journals) & apps. Having an online presence allows students worldwide to learn STEM without attending in-person workshops.

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

STEMinate created 23 chapters in 8 countries. Our website activities & in-person session have reached over 7,000 students worldwide. We raised over $10000 for blood cancer research, food banks (combatting sustainability issues), and environmental education nonprofits in India. We recently partnered with a nonprofit in Tanzania named the “Voice of Orphans,” where we now collect masks, sanitizer, & gloves for them. Our website has updated science kits, coding tutorials, information about STEM fairs/competitions, & COVID-19 fundraisers. For STEMinate, Perisa was selected as a Distinguished Finalist and a bronze medallion winner in the national Prudential Community of Awards program and won the President’s Volunteer Service award-Gold level. For our coding tutorials, Perisa has chosen as one of only 40 national winners out of 4,700 applicants for the NCWIT’s Aspirations in Computing award.

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

Despite our international presence, we hope to increase STEMinate chapters nationally & locally. During the COVID-19 pandemic, STEMinate plans on constantly updating our website & social media pages with relevant information regarding educational STEM & environmental news to enrich the community. STEMinate is hosting two GoFundMe fundraisers for Feed More & Heart-to-Heart, which deliver food to homeless shelters and medical equipment to those in need (respectively). We plan to incorporate more slideshows/ lesson plans about STEM & environmental topics (via 4H curriculum) for students to learn from during this time on our website, and host virtual science fairs/lectures. We also want to establish STEMinate as an official 501c(3) nonprofit.

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

After hosting community events & presenting our science research, we found two individuals, who became the Education Head leaders of STEMinate (respectively), who both create slideshow lesson plans about STEM subjects. Because of our active presence posting about issues like climate change on our social media platforms and our website, students internationally have contacted us to start local chapters to create workshops regarding climate change & ecosystem behaviors (like butterfly migration).

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

Changemakers successfully bring awareness to STEM accessibility or environmental sustainability via technology & leadership. With our broad focus, we will collaborate with changemakers in several fields, whether allowing them to publish their projects in our science review journal or join our online virtual STEM/leadership summits. We will collaborate with changemakers to publish apps that tackle environmental & ecosystem issues. Changemakers can lead STEMinate chapters in their communities.

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

A unique aspect of STEMinate is its broad focus, & thus we welcome individuals with talented abilities in any field to join. While our goal is to increase the diversity in STEM, we can do sot in various methods, whether integrating art in STEM+coding, partaking in science research to solve our most pressing environmental issues, developing innovative STEM+coding tutorials, contributing to our science review journal, writing blogs about STEM news/updates, advocacy, or developing additional apps.

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

  • Friend support
  • Family support
  • Mentors/advisors

References

Name: Manisha Ashar email: manishaashar2003@gmail.com Phone Number: 804-363-2753 Name: Hollee Freeman email: hfreeman@mymsic.org Phone Number: 804-310-8207 Name: Carter Davis Email: ccd296@vt.edu Phone Number: 804-382-6847 Name: Hollee Freeman email:

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
  • LGBTQ community
  • Religious minority (non-Christian)

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Social media
  • Search engine
  • Email

Referral: If you discovered the Challenge thanks to an organization or person other than Ashoka or General Motors, who was it?

I also learned about this wonderful challenge from several of my science fair and Intel ISEF fair friends, such as Neil Deshmukh

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Attachments (5)

President's Volunteer Service Award Certificate.pdf

For her work and community service in STEMinate, Perisa was awarded the President's Volunteer Service Award Certificate (at the Gold Level)

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Spam
Photo of Philip Cantone
Team

I have known you since you were in Kindergarten! You are truly an amazing young woman who WILL change the world for the better. I believe in you Perisa. Good Luck to you in this endeavor. God Bless!

Spam
Photo of PERISA ASHAR
Team

Thank you so much for your support Mr. Cantone. I truly appreciate it!

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