To celebrate Women’s History Month, Wicked STEM wanted to highlight some of the incredible women that have made an impact on the fields of STEM from past to present. From Ada Lovelace to Anne Makosinski, there are so many incredible women whose accomplishments in the fields of science and technology. Read all the way to the end to read about a local New Hampshire STEM hero, Cyrena-Marie Arnold!
Our first highlighted woman is Ada Lovelace. Born in 1815, Ada Lovelace is known as the first ever computer programmer. Her mother, a mathematician herself, instructed her in math, music, and French. Ada’s talent for math was evident from early on, and she was able to break into the world of professional mathematics at the young age of 17 when she met renowned mathematician Charles Babbage at a party. He showed her his unfinished “Difference Machine,” a machine that could make reliable calculations with the crank of a handle.
Ada’s main scientific accomplishments can be found in the notes she added to an article she was asked to translate about Charles Babbage’s second machine, the “Analytical Engine.” The notes extended the original article by three times its original length, and included instructions for performing the world’s first programming sequence using punch cards. She was the first person to recognize the science of mathematics and the science of programming (or “science of operations,” as she called it) as two separate disciplines. Ada Lovelace was not only the first programmer, but the first person to envision the potential of programming, even predicting that eventually there would be music made entirely by machines.
Born in 1906, Grace Hopper is the next woman we’re highlighting for her incredible contributions to STEM, especially in programming languages. A computer pioneer and naval officer, Grace Hopper completed her doctorate in mathematics and mathematical physics in 1934 during a time of unusual opportunity for women. When WWII began, she enlisted in the Navy and became one of the first three computer programmers working on the IBM Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator, more commonly known as the Mark I. While working as a research fellow at Harvard, Hopper worked on the Mark II and III, and popularized the term “debugging” in computer programming when she removed a large moth from the interior of the Mark II.
Though these accomplishments are remarkable, Hopper’s most influential achievements came later on in her life as head programmer for Remington Rand where she and her team developed the first computer language compiler, which allowed people to write programs for multiple computers at once instead of just one. She also recognized the need for user friendly programming languages and was responsible for developing and popularizing an English based programming language that allowed average people to interface with computers more easily.
The next female STEM hero we are highlighting is Sally Ride, the first woman and youngest American in space. She was a mission specialist on the STS-7 space shuttle mission aboard the Challenger and helped perform experiments, do spacewalks, and design and operate a robotic arm. She also embarked on a second Challenger flight a few years later and was scheduled for a third before the 1984 Challenger explosion suspended the program. After leaving NASA, Ride dedicated her life to helping young people, especially girls, find their passion for STEM through engaging programs and education.
When highschooler Ann Makosinski visited a friend in the Philippines and found out that she and many others were failing their classes because she didn’t have electric light to study by, she was determined to find a solution. In 2013, while still in high school, she won the Google Science fair for the Hollow Flashlight, a flashlight that is powered by the excess heat from your hands. Since then, Ann has gone on to speak at a number of TED and TEDx talks, filed many patents, founded the company Makotronics, and appeared on the Jimmy Fallon Show to demonstrate a coffee cup that can charge your phone with heat from the liquid. She is currently using money she received from the Quest Climate Grant to develop educational toys that teach children about renewable sources of energy.
Our last feature is Cyrena-Marie Arnold, a meteorologist and vice president of customer success at Athenium Analytics. She has installed weather stations in the Alaskan tundra by helicopter, acted as the Director of Summit Observations for Mt. Washington Observatory, and performed test flights with NASA contractors. Cyrena hopes to inspire young people to consider careers in engineering and technology and regularly volunteers with organizations such as Women in Science and Engineering to bring STEM presentations to kids.
Seeing the incredible legacy women have left upon the field of STEM has inspired countless others to overcome any barrier on the way of pursuing their passions. It’s easy to admire their passion and dedication to their fields, and Wicked STEM hopes to inspire a new generation of young people to do the same thing. At Wicked STEM, students will have the opportunity to get up close and personal with different disciplines in science, math, engineering, and technology. We hope that these experiences will open the eyes of students to the excitement and fun of STEM.