5 STEM Girl Geniuses You Should Know By: Shawn Reilly

by Shawn Reilly

As a middle school STEM teacher, the past couple of months have given me great opportunities to push myself further and be of better service to my young people. In February, we talked about Black narratives, saw Hidden Figures and discussed positive role models, read John Lewis’s novel March, chronicling his time in the Civil Rights Movement, listened to freedom songs while working on engineering projects, and had multiple discussions about positive role models. In March, I took some time to identify some amazing young women girls in the STEM field. I was excited to dive into National Women’s History Month in March. Not only that, but March also happens to hosts National Women Inventors Month, National Gender Equality Month and Expanding Girls’ Horizons in Science and Engineering Month. By providing my young people with youth possibility models that look like them, I am able to show them the potential that each one of them has to change the world around them.

Check out my fave five girls in STEM:

1. Alexis Lewis, age 13

When Alexis was just 13, she invented a bamboo travois (a type of sled) to help move sick and elderly people in distress quickly and easily. Inspired by horrors in the Somali famine of 2011, she was able to design a solution that was inexpensive, easy to assemble, and effective. She explains,

During the 2011 Somali famine, hundreds of children who were too weak to walk were left by the roadside to die when their parents could no longer carry them on the two to three week trek to a refugee center. When…Lewis read this in the newspaper, she thought no parent should have to do this. She wondered why they did not have a simple transportation device, like a little wagon, to help them carry the children. After speaking with experts, Lewis learned that there is a dearth of simple, wheeled transportation in Africa. Most of the simple transportation people had, if any, were wheelbarrows. Yet most of the Somalis who had to make the treks to the refugee centers were too poor to even have wheelbarrows.

Today, Alexis is a senior in high school and travels the country teaching “Inventing 101” classes to middle school students, as a way to empower the next generation of girls in STEM.

2. The Supergirls, ages 6

Some of us may remember these adorable little girls from a video that went viral in 2015, after their trip to the White House. Emily Bergenroth, Alicia Cutter, Karissa Cheng, Addy Oneal, and Emery Dodson, all age 6, worked together to build a lego-invention that helps people with limited mobility turn pages of a book easily.

President Barack Obama faces the cameras with cape-wearing Girl Scouts from Tulsa, Oklahoma, during the 2015 White House Science Fair on Monday. Brendan Smialowski / AFP - Getty Images Source

President Barack Obama faces the cameras with cape-wearing Girl Scouts from Tulsa, Oklahoma, during the 2015 White House Science Fair on Monday. Brendan Smialowski / AFP – Getty Images Source

If you haven’t seen the video yet, check out their adorable, and amazingly intelligent work, here.

3. Andrea Gonzales and Sophie Houser, High School students

Superstars Andrea and Sophie developed Tampon Run, an online and downloadable app that teaches young people about menstruation (be careful, it can get addictive). From the app itself, “Tampon Run is a way of of discussing the taboo in an accessible way. Instead of holding a gun, the runner holds tampons, and instead of shooting enemies, the runner throws tampons at them.”

Source: Screenshot from Tampon Run

Source: Screenshot from Tampon Run

The two girls met through the Girls Who Code program and developed this game as their final project. We love seeing the amazing results of youth-led organizations!

4. Ashley Qualls, age 10

At age 14, Ashley created and launched whateverlife.com (no longer in use), The website offered free teen and tween layouts for MySpace and other social media sites, that turned into a full-fledged business venture for Qualls. Also included on the site were tutorials and how-tos so that tweens could teach themselves graphic design. By the time Ashley was 17, she had become a millionaire.

5. Anvitha Vijay, 9 years old



Talented coder Anvitha Vijay has developed two apps (with plans for more!), all at the tender age of 9. Anvitha’s apps are focused on youth education, the first, called Smarkins Animals, teaches animals and animal sounds to kids and the second, Smartkins Rainbow, teaches colors. This amazing young person taught herself how to code at just age seven through how-to videos and modules from the internet. Recently, she received international attention as the youngest attendee of Apple’s Worldwide Developer Contest.

Who are your favorite girls and women in STEM? Comment below!

Want to see more youth leaders in action? Join Shawn, our YTH Live 2017 emcee and the rest of our YAB for YTH Live 2017. Register today for the conference, before it’s too late.

And download our 2017 TECHsex report to see why young people are using Google instead of doctors for their health.

ZonaSegura ZonaSegura is a trauma-informed youth-centered innovative mobile solution to address teen dating violence in Honduras. Learn more about ZonaSegura on our program page.