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

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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


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: Facebook: Steminate Initiative Instagram: @steminate.organization

Date You Started Your Project Started


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


Name: Manisha Ashar email: Phone Number: 804-363-2753 Name: Hollee Freeman email: Phone Number: 804-310-8207 Name: Carter Davis Email: 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

Evaluation results

34 evaluations so far

1. Overall evaluation

Yes, absolutely! - 72.7%

Probably - 12.1%

Maybe - 9.1%

Probably not - 6.1%

No - 0%

2. CONNECTION to Environmental Sustainability

5 - Absolutely! It is totally clear that the solution is contributing directly to environmental sustainability and/or addressing climate change - 64.7%

4 — Yes, it establishes a connection to environment/ climate change but could be stronger - 14.7%

3 — Somewhat, the entry speaks to this environmental sustainability, but the direct impact is not well established - 11.8%

2 — Not really, the connection to environment/ climate is very weak - 8.8%

1 — No. The entry does not have a reference the solution’s impact on environment and/or climate change - 0%

No Answer or No Connection - 0%

3. Is this entry CREATIVE?

5 - Yes, absolutely! - 70.6%

4 - Yes, I think so - 8.8%

3 - Maybe - 14.7%

2 - Probably not. - 2.9%

1 - No - 2.9%

No Answer - 0%

4. Does this entry demonstrate a COMMITMENT to changemaking?

5 - Yes, absolutely! - 100%

4 - Yes, I think so - 24%

3 - Maybe - 12%

2 - Probably not - 0%

1 - No - 0%

No Answer - 0%

5. Does this entry value CHANGEMAKING through collaboration with other stakeholders in its approach?

5 - Yes, absolutely! - 64.7%

4 - Yes, I think so - 20.6%

3 - Maybe - 11.8%

2 - Probably not - 2.9%

1 - No - 0%

No Answer - 0%

6. Is this entry VIABLE financially and operationally?

5 -Yes, absolutely! - 56%

4- Yes, I think so - 20%

3- Maybe - 20%

2- Probably not - 4%

1- No - 0%

No Answer - 0%

7. FEEDBACK: What are the strengths of this project?

CONNECTION: You have a great understanding and personal connection to the problem - 90.9%

CREATIVITY: You have researched existing solutions, and have developed unique, thoughtful new solutions to aid environmental sustainability/combat climate change - 63.6%

COMMITMENT: You have a thoughtful plan for growing your business, and your founding team has a strong combination of leadership and knowledge-based skills - 100%

CHANGEMAKER QUALITY: You value thinking around how to activate other changemakers and empower them to care about your cause. You also have a clearly defined plan on how to collaborate across multiple stakeholders - 68.2%

IMPACT MEASUREMENT: You use specific numbers and evidence to describe what your project has achieved so far (or plan to achieve in the future) and you have a plan for measuring impact - 63.6%

VIABLITY: You have given a great deal of thought to not just the idea itself but how to make it work from a financial perspective in the present and future - 63.6%

Other option - 0%

8. FEEDBACK: What are some areas for improvement for this project?

CONNECTION: Why you care about the environment/ climate was unclear – It would be great to elaborate on what this solution means to you, personally and how it affects you and/or your community. - 41.7%

CREATIVITY: Be more specific in your description of the research you have done into the past solutions to this problem and focus on how your solution is unique and innovative - 33.3%

COMMITMENT: Your plan for growing the organization can benefit from more specifics. How can you round out the various skills of your current leadership team to make the project a long-term success? - 8.3%

CHANGEMAKER QUALITY: Try to provide more insights into how you are activating changemakers and empowering them to innovate through your product or programming. How will they care about environment/climate if they currently do not? Think about how to create value for all stakeholders, not just immediate beneficiaries - 25%

IMPACT MEASUREMENT: Provide specific instances of your social impact and how you plan to measure impact – it may be helpful to describe the beneficiaries, products and programming, and provide evidence of (or plan for) how to measure impact - 66.7%

VIABILITY: Make sure you have provided descriptive information about your financial sustainability plan. Where do the funds come from now and do you have a concrete plan for future sustainability? - 41.7%

Nothing – I thought everything was great! - 100%

Other option - 8.3%

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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)


Join the conversation:

Photo of Pratap Asher

Excellent Work Perisa! Keep it up!


Thank you very much for all of your help! I truly appreciate your support!

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