Maansi Nema – A STEM Without Boundaries Story

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Child playing with a VR headset and smiling.

Maansi Nema (Pictured below), is a rising senior at Novi High School in Michigan. 

Maansi is passionate about technology, bringing more diversity to the field, and empowering other women. As a Girl Scout since Kindergarten, she has dedicated over 400 hours to her Gold Award to bring more students into the field of STEM by hosting multiple STEM Nights with over 1,500 attendees! 

She was recently named the Young Woman of Distinction in GSSEM (Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan) because her project was chosen out of all the Gold Award Girl Scouts in Michigan for this honor. Inspired by this impact, she founded a nonprofit organization called STEM Without Boundaries to give students the mentorship to accomplish what she accomplished. 

STEM Without Boundaries currently has 22 student directors and 13 chapters across the country!

We asked Maansi to tell us her story and what led her to where she is today.

Too few girls are encouraged to pursue STEM at an early age, so I decided to provide more opportunities to learn about STEM in an innovative, fun, and engaging way. I held multiple STEM nights where I collaborated with over 20 engineering organizations. Some key organizations were the Society of Women Engineers, Girls Who Code, the Robot Garage, Michigan Science Center, and Michigan State University WIE. The students loved participating in engaging presentations and live demos.

To market the event towards K-6th grade students, I contacted administration at all 20 elementary schools from 3 school districts (Novi, Northville, Farmington), reaching out to over 25,000 people. I worked with local restaurants such as Little Caesars to donate food and arranged for music with DJs. The Novi Education Foundation (NEF) is a nonprofit that funds creative, educational enrichment programs in the school district. I was the first student to receive a grant from the NEF since its inception in 1986.

I also worked with 8 local businesses to secure sponsorships of $2,100. To secure volunteers, I reached out to over 600 students through platforms such as TAB(the Novi Library volunteer group), HOSA(Future Health Professionals), Novi Youth Council, and National Honor Society. By partnering with my high school robotics team, I secured a total of over 120 volunteers that could attend my events throughout my project.

The STEM nights were a huge success. We have over 1000 people attend over the past year and 86% of students said they were interested in the STEM field. I was thrilled to see the hard work I had put in daily and the 400+ hours I had put in come to life at the STEM Nights. The energetic music, the children buzzing with excitement, the volunteers smiling. I vividly remember holding the microphone and speaking out to hundreds of people at the event, and seeing many girls looking up to me as their role model. This was special to me because I was helping these girls find their passions, without the stereotypes and gender biases that hold them back in STEM.

There simply aren’t enough girls in technology

This gave students an opportunity to network, create meaningful relationships, and learn new skills with all the mentors. The impact that this event has on these students is real and the message is clear. STEM is for everyone. I’ve become a role model for girls, and I’ve helped several girls start their STEM programs!

Amazed with the far-reaching impact of my work, the assistant superintendent of my district invited me to a district-wide STEM Equity panel. I was 1 of 7 panelists and the youngest. Here, I collaborated with technology leaders such as Kathy Giori, a Senior Product Manager at Mozilla, and Jessica Kempany, a Senior Executive at Toshiba, about how we can empower girls to pursue STEM fields in school. I led conversations about the importance of diversity in tech fields and shared my GirlScout Story.

What do you think of when you hear the word engineer

Most people envision a guy sitting behind a computer. As one of five girls in my AP Computer Science class, I quickly realized where this stereotype came from when I walked in. Initially, I thought it would be impossible for me to ever code because I didn’t think I was smart enough. But, I spent hours coding so I could reach the ultimate, satisfying feeling of solving my program. I fell in love with the power of coding: the syntax, algorithms, and data structures were mesmerizing. But, looking around my classroom, I realized there simply aren’t enough girls in technology. I realized it’s the lack of confidence, not ability, that was holding back girls like me. If girls continue to be educated in classrooms like my own though, it’s a miracle if they even decide to pursue a STEM field.

Women make up half the world’s population, so why aren’t they half of the technology workforce too?

It’s disheartening that the percent of female engineers in the U.S. is a mere 20%. Changing the culture around STEM for females will allow girls to build their confidence and careers. With the right resources and support, I know any girl can pursue a STEM field! STEM Without Boundaries strives to teach these girls to embrace challenges and emphasizes inspiring role models of women from diverse backgrounds as well. Our society must eliminate gender biases, change the stereotypes, and end the discrimination that pushes women away from STEM. My vision is that when people now hear “Engineer,” they’ll think of girls like me!

What advice do you have for the STEAM Boston community?

I had always been really afraid of reaching out to people, especially when it meant asking for help. But throughout my experiences, I’ve learned that people are usually more than willing to help if you ask for it – so don’t be afraid! Believe in yourself and your mission because you miss 110% of the shots you don’t take. Surround yourself with a strong support system – people who celebrate your success and are there for you always is something that every girl should have. Find mentors in the community whether it be a teacher, a coach, or someone you look up to help you along with the way that you can turn to for advice.

What is your favorite quote?

“Keep exploring. Keep dreaming. Keep asking why. Don’t settle for what you already know. Never stop believing in the power of your ideas, your imagination, your hard work to change the world” – Barack Obama.

In her free time, Maansi also loves playing tennis, making pad thai, and watching Ted Talks! Feel free to contact her with any questions about running a nonprofit, computer science, academics, time management, and networking! All her information is below. 

https://www.stemwithoutboundaries.org/

https://www.instagram.com/maansi.nema/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/maansinema/

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