Nikita Bharati is currently a junior in high school in Arizona. In addition to her studies, she started an organization called Girl STEMpowerment and is currently Co-founder and President. Her work to create and run Girl STEMpowerment was one of the primary reasons Nikita was nominated for the Make Space award. Girl STEMpowerment provides free STEM workshops and events to girls in 3rd through 8th grade on topics from chemistry and physics to engineering and computer science. Nikita Bharati’s motivation to create Girl STEMpowerment is rooted in seeing a need in her community through an accumulation of experiences where she saw a gap in the number of girls that participated in STEM classes and competitions. She created this organization to fight the gender gap and to inspire girls to pursue the study of STEM fields.
The Girl STEMpowerment organization is wide-reaching, with 11 chapters in the US and internationally. Girl STEMpowerment is estimated to reach over 400 girls in Arizona alone, which demonstrates the breadth of impact of Nikita’s work with this organization. To reach even more girls, Nikita knows that collaboration is essential and she teams up with other organizations to put on large math tournaments, biotech camps, and to bring technology to the classroom. One effort that she’s particularly proud of is an effort to bring ‘Food Computers’, or tabletop-sized, controlled environment agriculture technology platform that uses robotic systems to control and monitor climate, energy, and plant growth inside of a specialized growing chamber, to middle schools around Arizona. This is a collaboration between Nikita’s Girl STEMpowerment and the Arizona Sustainability Alliance to integrate teaching middle schoolers about environmental health and climate using a computer science platform.
What motivates a high school junior to create an amazingly impactful international STEM organization? Nikita was first motivated to pursue STEM coursework and improve the number of girls in upper-level STEM courses by her family, particularly her mother, who had a dream of becoming an engineer but was forced by societal norms in her country of birth to focus on caring for the family. With immigration to the US came new opportunities for Nikita, who used the lesson of “find[ing] her voice and let[ting] it be heard,” to create new opportunities for herself and others to learn about STEM subjects. Nikita believes, “the issue of women being discouraged from STEM comes from girls having a lack of confidence in these fields at a young age, due to factors such as constricting stereotypes, gender bias, and the male-dominated environment prevalent in science and engineering departments in universities.” She also knows that this is exacerbated in other countries where women are oppressed and further burdened by low socioeconomic status, and used her mother’s experience and her local experience of seeing low numbers of girls in upper levels STEM classes, as a call to action.
Nikita’s work with Girl STEMpowerment will having a long-lasting impact, empowering girls to pursue STEM careers from an early age. The person who nominated Nikita states it best, “what Nikita does outside of the classroom far exceeds the expectations of a high school student.” Further, the letter states that she “creates a space for girls to simply explore their interests in various STEM fields without the burden of self-doubt or social stigmas.” The space that Nikita makes is impressive, especially at an early age, seeing the barriers for women and girls and breaking them down. This superstar with a passion for improving gender barriers in STEM will continue an impressive trajectory, enhancing the lives of many girls and women for years to come.
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