Maansi Nema, 17, of Novi, Michigan, a member of Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan and a senior at Novi High School, began hosting STEM nights in 2017 to interest elementary-school girls in science, math and technology, and then created a nonprofit to provide advice and resources to other high school students who want to host similar events in their own communities. Maansi never even considered the possibility that she could become an engineer until she took a computer programming class. “I fell in love with the constant problem-solving, perseverance and logic it took to solve challenging computer science problems,” she said. But she was only one of three girls in the class and didn’t know any women who had pursued that career path.
Maansi began planning a STEM night where young girls, with their families, could learn about STEM subjects in a fun, engaging way. She planned an agenda of hands-on, interactive activities, live demonstrations and presentations, then invited students from 20 elementary schools and recruited 120 volunteers to help. She also invited engineering organizations to participate, and secured a grant and sponsorships to pay for food, music and other costs. After several very successful events drew more than 1,000 attendees, Maansi founded a nonprofit called “STEM Without Boundaries” to help students in other states and countries replicate her efforts. There are now 15 chapters of her organization in 10 states and three other countries. “The STEM nights are amazing,” said Maansi. “They show students that STEM is for everyone, and most importantly, that they belong.”