An upcoming documentary by a Stanford filmmaker about girls in STEM features Convent first grade and high school students.
On a spring morning, Convent first graders were faced with an engineering challenge: prototype a robot that could help someone live on the moon. As the students began mapping solutions on big poster boards, their teachers, three high school students on the Missfits all-girls robotics team, walked around the room asking open-ended questions and engaging them in discussion.
“What stood out,” says Ryann Minnis, a Convent junior and a founding member of the Missfits, “was how eager the girls were to learn and come up with new ideas when things didn't work.” That ability to identify and solve problems at the heart of any STEM investigation is the focus of a new documentary about girls in STEM, directed by a graduate student in the Documentary Film MFA program at Stanford University.
The film follows Ryann and her Missfits teammates through a season of robotics competitions in their quest to qualify for the FIRST Robotics World Championships. Outside of competitions, San Francisco’s first and only all-female robotics team, which counts three Convent students among its 19 members, designs curriculum and leads workshops to introduce female youth to engineering and technology.
When the film’s director, Ellie Wen, learned that Convent places an emphasis on STEM starting with its youngest learners, she arranged to film the Missfits leading a demonstration “to show how women can get involved with STEM at all ages.” Ms. Wen adds: “It was amazing to see the young women explaining STEM concepts to the first graders and to see how the students lit up when they came up with ideas to solve a problem and when their engineering experiments worked.”
A week after the workshop with first graders, the Missfits entered the Silicon Valley Regional in San Jose and won the competition in a crowded field of 60 teams from around the country to secure a spot for the world championships in Houston. When asked what makes the Missfits story so captivating, Ryann says that it is “because women are such a minority in STEM and we have been able to accomplish so much in such little time.”
The film, titled The Missfits, will have its first public screening on Saturday, June 15 at Stanford. It is free and open to the public.