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Press Release

Release Date: March 23, 2021

by Chickasaw Nation Media Relations Office



The science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) field is crucial to our quality of life and well-being, now more than ever before. Immersed in a pandemic and dealing with a widespread and globally shared concern like COVID-19, many in the STEM field are working tirelessly to solve this problem. The STEM field has been a part of every facet of COVID-19 response efforts.

According to Luke Kerr, manager of the Chickasaw Nation STEM Academy, there are currently not enough people to fill the needs in the STEM workforce, and they’re trying to get more women involved in STEM.

“There is a massive deficit of people to fill STEM jobs. Furthermore, there’s a gender gap of nearly three-to-one of men versus women pursuing these careers. The numbers get even smaller when you focus on First American students following STEM paths,” Kerr said.

In 2018, the Chickasaw Nation began addressing the gender gap by working with an all-girl LEGO robotics team called the “Warrior Cats” from Noble, Oklahoma. This group had a diverse collection of coaches and volunteers. The team hosted a half-day workshop focusing on girls in STEM. Due to overwhelming response from participants, parents and presenters, the STEM Academy began planning for an annual five-day clinic called FemSTEM.

“In 2019, we grew to a weeklong event, and 2020 had us slated to be a staple on the annual Chickasaw Nation Camps, Clinics and Academies event list,” Kerr said.

Like other events at the Chickasaw Nation STEM Academy, FemSTEM combines a schedule of interactive sessions, hands-on experiments, professional presentations, field trips and friendly competition. Topics range from zoology, medicine, engineering, biology, robotics, chemistry, aerospace, coding and veterinary sciences.

All Chickasaw Nation STEM Academy events foster an awareness of STEM opportunities, create interest in the practical application of science and encourage children to pursue higher education.

However, FemSTEM does this in a special way. It removes any potential intimidations, allowing young women to bond with each other, while interacting with female professionals in an assorted collection of STEM fields.

“Our goal is to reach as many young women as we can, steer them into STEM-related fields they may not have found otherwise and watch them succeed in a profession they love,” Kerr said.

“The fact that FemSTEM has been established, and we continue to have support for such a unique opportunity, is already a success for all involved. The pinnacle of that achievement is only enhanced by continuing its legacy, and hopefully one day a past participant can come back to share her journey and advance the next generation to do the same,” he said.

“STEM is often misunderstood and dismissed, yet it’s all around us,” Kerr said. “We try to take everyday problems and show how STEM is involved in solving them. Our curriculum covers a wide range of topics and does so in a fun-filled team environment. More importantly, we get students’ hands on the material and back it up with support from those who are passionate about sharing it.”

Visit Chickasaw.net/FemSTEM for more information.