Meet 4 entrepreneurs who are encouraging STEM education among children in a playful manner

These learning platforms by women and young girls are helping children creatively engage in STEM education, through games and storytelling.

In the debate for equal opportunities, there is great emphasis placed on encouraging women to pursue higher studies and career in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), mostly considered a male bastion. 

Despite women-centric initiatives and increase in women enrolling for higher studies in STEM, the United Nations reported that women constitute only 14 percent of the 280,000 scientists, engineers and technologists working in research development institutes across the country. 

While ensuring equal opportunities and representation in educational institutions and workplace is important, change begins with small steps and one concept at a time. 

HerStory presents women and young girls who took to entrepreneurship to creatively develop interest in science, mathematics, and other subjects. 

(From L to R clockwise) Alamelu Kathiresan and Shalini Ilanahai, Founder of Math Love; Jaya and Ankita Parashar, Founder of STREAM Minds; Sheetal Parekh, Founder of The Pretty Geeky; Samaira Mehta, Founder of CoderBunnyz

Sheetal Parekh, The Pretty Geeky

As a mother of a 10-year-old, Sheetal Parekh noticed that the toys available in the market for girls were not designed to teach them skills like problem solving and strategising. Sheetal, who holds a bachelor’s degree in Life Sciences and Biochemistry from Columbia University, decided to conceptualising and making DIY games at home.

This led to the start of The Pretty Geeky in November 2018, with an initial investment of Rs 2 lakh. Based in Mumbai, the startup offers card games that help reinforce STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) concepts in an appealing way to children.

Designed for children between ages five and 11, the startup currently offers five card games. While three of them help reinforce academic concepts in Mathematics are priced at Rs 450 each, the remaining two focus on concepts in science, and are priced at Rs 499 each. 

While Sheetal has said that she designed the games keeping the girls in mind, at the same time, it is also targeting primary teachers and schools who can use them as teaching tools. 

Samaira Mehta, CoderBunnyz

Samaira Mehta shows that age is truly just a number and that it takes the right idea and passion to board the flight to entrepreneurship. Founder and CEO of CoderBunnyz, Samaira launched a STEM game of the same name when she was just eight years old. 

In addition to winning $2,500 and the second position at Think Thank Learning’s Pitchfest in 2016, the innovation was adopted for use by 106 schools across the US within the first year of launch. 

A sequel to this game helps children learn basic principles of artificial intelligence (AI), training an AI model, inference, and adaptive learning, among others.

Notably, Samaira also received a letter of encouragement from the former first lady of US, Michelle Obama in 2016.

Alamelu Kathiresan and Shalini Ilanahai, Math Love

Mathematics may not be rocket science but there is a general aversion and fear of the subject. As a Teach for India fellow, Alamelu Kathiresan and Shalini Ilanahai observed this when they were teaching students of Corporation Girls Higher Secondary School in Chennai.

The duo then decided to introduce Mathematic concepts through games and storytelling and saw improvement among the students in three months. The duo took the practice further and founded their startup called Math Love in 2017, which helps schools with innovative curriculums inclusive of props, games, and learning material to promote holistic numerical learning.

The startup works toward addressing three key challenges, which are disengagement with numbers, gaps in foundational mathematic skills, and lack of practical understanding of the subject.

In the last two years, Math Love has helped more than 460 students across three schools in Chennai. The startup is currently being incubated and mentored as part of the Teach For India’s InnovatED initiative.  

Jaya and Ankita Parashar, STREAM Minds

Mother-daughter duo Jaya and Ankita Parashar longed to start an educational venture of their own and set the idea into motion in December 2016 when they moved from Dubai to India and founded STREAM Minds. 

Based in Gurugram, the startup commenced operations in April 2017, promotes education of Science, Technology, Reading/Writing, Arts and Mathematics in India among young minds.

The duo is also introducing electronics for children through their product Short Circuits, a book of Paper Circuits that combines electronics with storytelling. Children can read stories, colour them while also learning about circuits and electronics and the underlying scientific concepts in the stories. 

Targeting children in elementary school, its prototype, piloted recently, has been widely acclaimed by educationists and experts in the field. 

Edited by Rekha Balakrishnan


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