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Westchester 16-Year-Old Is Changing Perceptions About Girls

Jothi Ramaswamy founder of ThinkSTEAM. Photo Credit: Jothi Ramaswamy
Ramaswamy, kneeling bottom left, and the 75 tri-state area girls at the STEAM-A-THON event. Photo Credit: Jothi Ramaswamy

Jothi Ramaswamy was having dinner on a school night, halfway through the 2015 school year when a conversation with her brother left her even hungrier.

Her brother, Akshay, happened to mention that out of the 33 students in his C++ class—a computer science language—none were girls.

Ramaswamy, a Yorktown resident, had been interested in computer science since sixth grade, but hearing something like that flustered her. She decided to research why but discovered the void wasn’t just present in his class, it was the entire Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) field.

After doing research, she found that only 18 percent of science majors in U.S. colleges are female despite 66 percent of fourth-grade girls being interested in STEM. Furthermore, only 24 percent of women make up the STEM fields.

Something needed to be done.

Soon after that dinner conversation, the then 13-year-old decided creating some kind of engaging, educational group geared solely towards girls was the answer. Or at least a step in closing the gap.

ThinkSTEAM , a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, Ramaswamy founded -- with a little encouragement by her mother and brother -- in 2015, is designed to fill the gap in STEM fields by encouraging young girls to study and pursue the sciences.

In the two and a half years its been operational, Ramaswamy has hosted technology and STEM workshops allowing girls the opportunity to work with professionals from IBM, Google, PepsiCo. and other tech companies.

The workshops—which are monthly and held at libraries, colleges and sometimes the actual headquarters of companies—have reached approximately 350 to 400 girls in eight states, according to Ramaswamy.

Now a junior at Lakeland High School, the 16-year-old said “[ThinkSTEAM tries to] apply these science and technology concepts to the arts and really brings in that creativity to show girls that science and technology can be applied to everything.

"It exposes them more to its applications to encourage them to pursue STEM in the future.”

The organization, in fact, received the HerLEAD grant in October 2017 from ANN INC and Vital Voices —two prominent women activist groups—and was used for Hudson Valley’s first all-day STEAM-A-THON event on Jan. 6. Seventy-five girls from the tri-state area attended and were given the opportunity work with PepsiCo. and IBM professionals as well as computer science students from Stanford and UC San Diego.

Ramaswamy also devised the annual ThinkBIG campaign, which showcases girls who encourage others to pursue STEM. ThinkSTEAM now has chapters in Washington and Arizona and the Westchester native hopes to reach more states and go international.

“I really, really like [what I’m doing at this age], it’s just a great experience to teach and expose girls to science and technology even more,” said Ramaswamy, who was just honored as a 2018 Global Teen Leader by Three Dot Dash and will attend the Just Peace Summit in March.

“It's satisfying seeing the pictures I take at some of the workshops where the girls are really enjoying themselves.

"Looking at the pictures and videos motivates me to continue to help these girls out.”

Know a Westchester up-and-comer 30 or under? Email jmuchnick@dailyvoice.com for a profile.

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