Earlier this year I shared the exciting news of how Bluknowledge has been working with Hofstra University, Parent University and Early Learning College to bring engineering into the homes of families in Savannah, Georgia. The WGG Family STEM program is the vehicle by which these families were able to connect and share these experiences. Each one of the 8 families that participated in the program were led by women who embodied the courage, fortitude and brilliance of Mary Jackson, an African-American NASA engineer most recently highlighted in Margot Shetterly’s Hidden Figures. Shetterly’s story brought to light the fact that the contributions made by African American women in the field of science, technology, engineering and math have been grossly underrepresented in our nation’s history.
In an effort to empower families to incorporate STEM into their everyday lives, we continue our #IAmMaryJackson series with an interview with Mrs. Phyllis Grady, one of our WGG participants. Mrs. Grady participated in three WGG Family STEM sessions and facilitated three engineering challenges at home with her two children and two grandchildren.
How has the WGG STEM Program enhanced your family’s knowledge of engineering?
Mrs. Phyllis Grady: For me, the program made me think more about engineering. I think about all of the things that are happening in our neighborhood that falls under the category of engineering. For instance road construction and design. Different building structures and why they are made that way. Housing and how you can come up with the different parts of putting a home together. I would say that the program definitely enhanced our knowledge and understanding of the process. Now when the kids and I are driving around in the car, we can actually have conversations about things like the design process and understand some of the challenges that may have come from creating things in our own neighborhoods.
What was your favorite activity and why?
Mrs. Phyllis Grady: Our favorite activity was definitely the hovercraft! I was amazed that you could take those [everyday] items[cd, balloon, and water bottle] and make a whole new product. I was also able to guide the kids and let them try some things without getting in the way of their learning. I paired my high school kids against my middle schoolers. And it was the high schoolers that stumbled and were beat by the middle schoolers, even though one of the high school kids is actually in a technology program! They thoroughly enjoyed the activity. So much that we want to take the activity back to our home town and meet up with some other kids to do the project.
How has the Family STEM program influenced your family’s interactions? .
Mrs. Phyllis Grady: We have an engineer in the family and now after the program we can now look at the world from the aspect of an engineer. We have a newfound respect for the field. We have the confidence to conquer our fears, to ask the hard questions and then go out there and find the answers. This program is definitely a confidence builder for the kids and myself. We are empowered by what we learned. It has caused our family to pick up other similar projects to do together.
“Our favorite activity was definitely the hovercraft! . . .They thoroughly enjoyed the activity. So much that we want to take the activity back to our home town and meet up with some other kids to do the project.”
Why should other parents and families in the community participate in the WGG Family STEM program?
Mrs. Phyllis Grady: The WGG program can help families open their eyes to possibilities. They can see and understand how much engineering is a part of everyday life. [They] get a different perspective and start to understand how to investigate problems and design ways to solve those problems. And through their understanding and learning with their kids, they will be able to encourage their children to go into the [engineering] field. This program helps expose the parents and children to the field.
“[The WGG Family STEM] program is definitely a confidence builder for the kids and myself. We are empowered by what we learned. It has caused our family to pick up other similar projects to do together.”
Through her willingness to bring STEM to her family, Mrs. Grady was able to encourage lifelong habits that will serve as a strong foundation for whatever career path that they chose. It is because of Mrs. Grady’s dedication to learning and exposure that we are able to bring you these inspiring accounts of her family’s experience. In the spirit of Mary Jackson, it is time that we tell herstory.