By DIYA AGRAWAL ‘22, SRINIJA DEVARAJU ‘22, ISHITA GABHANE ‘22
In a time where virtual learning is the norm, many students have been having a difficult time connecting to students and activities outside of the virtual classroom. A new club at Edison High School, called WiSTEM FOCUS (women in STEM), focuses on promoting equality in the STEM field. In September 2021, the founders of the club, Ishani Kunadharju ‘22, Diya Agrawal ‘22, Srinidhi Venkatesh ‘22, and Vasumathi Venkat ‘22, initiated a program called I Cubed. This new endeavour connects the members of WiSTEM FOCUS Club with middle schoolers in the Edison District. Members of the club were responsible for creating ten to fifteen minute interactive projects about any STEM topic, which were then presented to middle schoolers. Through this program, the WiSTEM FOCUS club hoped to spark STEM interest among young middle school students.
“Over the summer, my board mates and I were reflecting on our experiences as some of the only girls in the Edison High School STEM Academy and the challenges women face in the STEM field at large,” said Kunadharaju, one of the Executive Board Members and Co-Founders. “As a result of this reflection, we decided to start a club that served as a productive community of like-minded, supported individuals.”
Inspiration for the I Cubed project stemmed from this ideology, in the sense that the board members wanted to create a connection between middle school students and high school students that would allow both groups to explore their enthusiasm for the STEM field.
Executing this project did not come without its challenges. This club was founded this year, meaning it was started during the virtual learning environment. The club needed to adapt its plans in order to suit the virtual format. As a result, the club was unable to make the presentations as interactive as previously planned.
“But even with the virtual format, I Cubed is a success! We could not be happier with the way the project is progressing right now,” said Kundharaju.
Overcoming the boundaries of virtual learning, the I Cubed project has already run three presentations this year: one about the COVID-19 vaccines, one about forensic science, and one about astronomy. “I think I Cubed is a really good program in general because it exposes younger students to STEM topics without overwhelming them with the specifics,” said Shikha Agarwal ’22, one of the presenters of the COVID-19 presentation.
In addition to making topics interesting and accessible, the club members also work to incorporate diversity into the program. “Often, STEM is seen as ‘engineering & coding,’ but I Cubed provides a holistic experience for middle school students by exposing them to all aspects of STEM,” said Megan Ulozas ‘22, the presenter of the presentation on the moon. “I Cubed introduced diversity in STEM by showing middle school students that regardless of your gender, race, age, etc. you can have passion for and succeed in STEM,” Ulozas further said. Overall, the I Cubed program hopes to not only increase interest in STEM, but also empower students to be confident in the field.
While the program may only seem to benefit middle school students, it also benefits the high school presenters. “When [high schoolers] get so caught up in our class work and daily lives, we tend to forget about what caused our interest in the STEM field in the first place,” said Ulozas.
Through the I Cubed program, presenters are able to revisit the topics that sparked their interest in the STEM field and are even able to explore new topics themselves through others’ presentations. In this sense, this initiative serves as a mutually beneficial program, where students across the district get to be part of a welcoming STEM community.