WiSTEM club rebrands itself to encourage participation

October 10, 2018 — by Allison Hartley

The leaders of the Women in STEM club have one main mission this year: to increase attendance and revitalize the club.

At Club Rush on Sept. 27, club president Kiran Chandrasekher and vice president Ananya Vadlakonda, both juniors, stood among the tables trying to drum up support.

Since alumna Sonal Pai established the club in 2013, it has had highs and lows. The club has experienced a lull in the past two years, with a low-key presence on campus, low participation and not many events. However, in the coming school year, WiSTEM hopes to boost participation by hosting several events.

This spring, for example, club officers plan on holding a WiSTEM night, when members of the club will be divided into groups based on the area of STEM they are interested in. They will then collaborate on and present projects to professionals and their peers, which president Chandrasekher said will “help people make connections and explore what they’re interested in, and also expose other people who come and see the projects [to specific STEM fields].”

The club also plans to take members on company tours to broaden their experiences along with bringing back the Bay Area Research Expedition (BARE), an annual conference hosted in collaboration with the Lynbrook and Monta Vista WiSTEM clubs. At the conference, speakers and professionals will advise and network with high school students in the area. BARE did not occur in the previous school year due to complications with the host location, but this year the clubs will likely hold BARE at Saratoga High rather than at a venue like Google.

Chandrasekher also recalled an event held in the engineering room three years ago while she was in eighth grade, when WiSTEM introduced students from Redwood Middle School to coding using programs like Scratch. She hopes to emulate this event on a larger scale, including marketing it at more schools and creating a day-long event in order to introduce girls to STEM-related fields.

Despite Silicon Valley’s emphasis on STEM, girls tend to make up a much smaller part of STEM groups and classes around campus, such as APCS and robotics.

“Living in Saratoga, usually parents are in STEM because it’s a high-tech hub, so you [believe] ‘women can go into STEM subjects, too,’ but when you go into actual STEM classes and activities, it’s just not the case,” Chandrasekher said. “Equality is an important thing, and being able to go in having the same opportunities is part of that.”

Still, Vadlakonda said that the club encourages participation from both genders as it’s important for men to understand that women have a role in STEM, too. Five male students, out of around 30 members overall, attended the first ice cream social meeting on Sept. 28.

Throughout the year, WiSTEM will hold meetings during Friday lunches in room 304, WiSTEM club adviser Audrey Warmuth’s room. During lunch meetings, members can learn networking skills, be introduced to potential STEM fields and meet similarly motivated students.

“Events will speak for itself, but we will continue to advertise throughout the year,” Vadlakonda said. “Our goal is really to come back with a bang and be different from last year. It’s almost like a new club.”


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