Alyssa is a 16 year old in 11th grade. She lives in Los Angeles, California, and is interested in robotics and computer science. She participates in student government and enjoys playing basketball. You can find her on Instagram @alyssafur.
How did you first become involved with STEM?
Joining my school's FIRST robotics team as a freshman.
What do you enjoy about science, technology, math, or engineering?
STEM is innovative; it's about creating unique solutions to problems big and small. It's a mix of technical knowledge and creativity and allows for you to craft solutions fitting your personality thus making it your own.
What did you think about STEM before you were involved? How have your views changed over time?
I didn't know what STEM really meant until I immersed myself in it. I was a middle schooler who was suddenly encouraged by my eighth grade science teacher to continue with the sciences and look into high school robotics. So I joined and my views have definitely changed over time. Now I'm a firm advocate for teaching STEM at young ages, especially for girls. Girls need to know that STEM is as much a career option for them as it is for the boys, despite the dismal numbers of women who make up the total number of engineers, computer scientists, etc.
Have stereotypes ever influenced your view of STEM and what you do? Have you ever encountered any bias due to your gender or another factor?
Yeah definitely. Some of the boys on my robotics team have told me that I became a captain for the team this year because I'm a girl, something we've never had in our 11 years of existence. I think facing the adversity of being discriminated against for your gender is something that should spark anger and passion. It's a real injustice to women, and personally it drives me to know that I am changing the perceptions of women in STEM at my school.
Why do you think that more girls should be interested in STEM?
STEM careers must be more accessible to women and young girls. To break the glass ceiling and put women in higher up positions will create role models for younger generations of girls in STEM. The encouragement of young girls to pursue STEM is vital to the long term numbers of women in STEM fields. Girls absolutely have a place in STEM. As technology takes over our daily lives and becomes integrated with the human experience, we cannot afford to lose out of the voices of 50% of the human population and to miss out on their needs as technology evolves.
Do you see yourself having a career in a STEM field in the future (if you don't already)? If so, do you have a dream job or company?
Absolutely. I see myself leading projects within technology companies to innovate the future whether that's in computer science, AI, virtual reality, robotics, or whatever else pops up next.
What advice do you have for beginners?
Never give up. There will always be people who doubt your competence, flat out tell you you're not good enough, judge you for your decisions, and tell you not to be who you are. Don't listen to them. Keep following your dreams.
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