Broadcom Israel Inspires Young Women to Stick with STEM

Girls Israel 2015 2 Resize
At MadaTech, participants build a feeding device for a dog

More than 50 Broadcom volunteers in Israel are taking their successful STEM volunteering program one step further by focusing on an at-risk demographic – young women.

It’s no secret that women in engineering are poorly represented. In the U.S., women make up only 12 percent of working engineers, based on statistics from the AAUW in 2013. The numbers are higher in Israel, at about 35 percent, according to 2013 data from the Central Bureau of Statistics, but that’s still far from ideal.

Broadcom volunteers in Israel are seeking to change this by focusing on young women in middle school. It’s a particularly critical age where many female students who are at the critical stage where they will decide to continue down a science and technology path in high school – or abandon STEM altogether.

It’s just one of the reasons why last month, Ilanit Drori, office services manager and STEM coordinator for Broadcom Israel, along with Technical Director Philippe Klein, worked with Israel’s Ministry of Education (MOE) to launch a pilot for a girls STEM workshop in Israel.

In partnership with Tel Aviv University Youth Center for Advanced Studies, Space IL and Mada Tech of the Israel National Museum of Science, and the Broadcom Foundation, the MOE selected 20 sixth-grade students from all over Israel to participate in this week-long program.

The program combined best practices from academia with leaders from the technology industry to demonstrate the importance of science and technology in today’s society. The program also aspired to strengthen the self-confidence of young women in their capabilities and reinforce their sense of equality in the field of science.

Participants learn robotics with Moki, the robot of the Neo type
Participants learn robotics with Moki, the robot of the Neo type

“Excellence in STEM is the life blood of Israel that relies on highly skilled innovators to maintain its status as the ‘Start Up Nation,’” said Paula Golden, President and Executive Director, Broadcom Foundation and Director, Community Affairs, Broadcom. “Broadcom’s commitment to getting more young women engaged in STEM will help achieve this goal.”

The students did not know each other before the workshop, but soon became a supportive, unified group during the week, Drori said. They showed tremendous interest in the program, asking many questions during the lectures and workshops.

“This program gave the young women their first glance into the academic and real world applications of science and technology, she said. “We hope it strengthens their self-confidence and gives them the tools they need to succeed in challenging and rewarding careers. In the end, we want these young women to feel like equals with their male counterparts in the field of science and engineering.”

Girls Israel 2015 ResizeThe students heard lectures and attended workshops at Tel Aviv University, toured engineering labs and took part in activities in applied electrostatic physics, astrophysics, chemistry and zoology. Some of the fun activities included prepping ice cream, solving a ‘mathematical multiplication table’ made up of aliens, learning robotics with Moki the robot, and viewing a demonstration in a mobile planetarium.

The students’ visit to the MadaTech Museum in Haifa included a Raspberry Pi workshop.  Both Philippe Klein, PhD, technical director and Ilan Reingold, senior manager of product marketing in Israel, assisted in teaching students the basics of programming and how to create real products (name tags, pendants, animals) using a 3-D program. The students then worked together to design and print a feeding device for dogs that automatically fills up with water.

On the last day, the students heard a presentation on women rights including exposure into how women in today’s society can be in high level positions including CEOs.

The program is slated to be repeated next year due to the feedback from the young women including, “I enjoyed every minute of the seminar,” “I found new friends that I have a lot in common with,” and “I came here since I have passion for science and this seminar helped me to make a decision to proceed with my learning in science.”