BoSTEM’s work to help provide meaningful STEAM experiences and resources to the students of Boston would not be possible without our support and collaboration from our fantastic partners. Today we want to highlight SySTEMic Flow, an organization we have worked in close connection with through the last year and highlight the tremendous work they do and how we’ve collaborated.
Jessica Sanon founded SySTEMic Flow in 2017 to help inspire young Black girls and women interested in STEM and help maintain that passion by assisting them in starting careers in STEM fields. Their goal is to bridge the gap between math literacy and STEM education in a way that both increases and retains the number of Black women who graduate with STEM-related degrees and get into the field. We do this through a three-tier model providing a holistic approach to academic preparation, mentorship with BIPOC professionals, and internship opportunities within the area.
“Working with BoSTEM has enabled us to further our mission at sySTEMic flow. We have been so fortunate enough to find partners who (1) understand the work that we do, (2) support the work that we do, and (3) work with us to address the inequities BIPOC students face in the STEM industry on both an academic and professional level. From the My STEM Story events we put on creating Math Escape rooms, we have continuously found ways to amplify and elevate student learning beyond the classroom. Without such a rich partnership with BoSTEM, we would not have reached the students as quickly as we could, especially during the pandemic.” – Jessica Sanon, Founder and CEO of SySTEMic Flow.
BoSTEM and SySTEMic Flow both began working together in 2020 and have collaborated on several projects including My STEM Story panels and Math Escape room events. They also collaborated with us during Mass STEM Week 2020 and STEMCation Week.
“Working with SySTEMic Flow has truly inspired our students to become future STEM professionals. They are a wonderful organization to work with and represent a bright future for STEM. I hope we continue our SySTEMic Flow and United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley’s initiative BoSTEM forever”- Alexa Rose, Maker Fellow Americorps Vista and main collaborator on the BoSTEM team with SySTEMic Flow
My STEM Story
For our My STEM Story panel discussions, Sanon moderated discussions between groups of Black women working either as students or in STEM fields from the U.S. and all around the world. The purpose of these events was to highlight the stories of these STEM heroes and have them give advice to students of all ages and professionals about how they succeeded in their careers or academics.
The first two My STEM Story events took place during Mass STEM Week 2020 featuring first a panel of current students at the undergraduate and graduate level and a panel of professionals. The first panel was called My STEM Story: Experiences from Black Women in College/Graduate School and featured four students. These women spoke about a wide range of topics from finding a mentor to dealing with being the only woman of color in their programs. One of the panelists, Baby Lenga Kalemba, an exercise and health sciences student at the University of Massachusetts Boston spoke about her experience being the only Black student in her classes and how she dealt with it.
“I noticed I am the only person of color sometimes and sometimes it can feel a little uncomfortable but I always try to tell myself this is why I am here,” Kalemba said. “Because there aren’t a lot of us and I want there to be more of us. I want someone to see me and be like ‘she made it so I can also make it’.”
Daem Celestin, an undergraduate studying Cell and Molecular Biology at Northeastern University, spoke about her experience and trouble finding a mentor and how she eventually overcame her struggles.
“If you find someone that is genuinely interested in your success regardless of how successful they are, that’s the best,” Celestin said.
Adriannna Shy, a PhD Candidate in Chemistry at Brandeis University, gave advice to younger students about how they can build their resumes by seeking out leadership opportunities in their community and volunteering.
“It really helps show you’re a well rounded person and it shows you can do more than just sit in a lab and pipet or sit at a computer in code,” Shy said. “We think of science sometimes as just doing the work and getting the data or helping the patients but it’s also about interpersonal interaction and how well you can communicate with people and I think people sometimes forget that.”
The last panelist, Omoqunmi Faluyi, an undergraduate student in biology at the University of Massachusetts Boston, spoke about how even though STEM can be a very individualistic career, it is important to have a strong support system in place.
“STEM can be very gruesome to your mental health and life in general so make sure you have a support system,” Faluyi said. “It can be your family, it can be in your workplace, it can be in your church, or in any gathering that you are committed to…as you’re going forward you’re going to need these people to keep on helping you and supporting you to give you the words of affirmation that you can do it and you can achieve that.”
The second panel during Mass STEM Week 2020 was My STEM Story: The Career Journey of the Professional Black Woman and featured two panelists who spoke virtually to a group of students and professionals about their careers and how they got them, as well as the obstacles they overcame to get where they are today. The first panelist was Dr. Monique Farrell, who works as a senior principal engineer at an aerospace and defense company and earned her PhD in Materials Science and Engineering from Norfolk State University after completing her B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Farrell talked about how she overcame her early struggles in college by using the resources at her school and by having a good mentor.
“I just had to dig deep and say ‘well I don’t know this information now but I am going to believe in myself that I can learn it and I am disciplined and focused enough to gather all of the resources around me to get it done,” Farrell said.
The other panelist was Sade Luwoye, a Systems Engineer at Lockheed Martin in Baltimore who has a B.S in Electrical Engineering and a M.S in Systems Engineering from George washington University. Luwoye spoke on what it was like sometimes being the only person of color in her classes at school and how she used that to motivate herself for her future career.
“Since Elementary school I went to predominantly white schools where I was the only black female or the only black person in general in some of my honors and advanced classes,” Luwoye said. “I just had to encourage myself and remember my end goal.”
The third My STEM Story panel we did in collaboration with SySTEMic Flow was in March 2021 and was called My STEM Story: The Career Journey of the Professional Black Woman. This panel instead focused on three Black women STEM professionals from Ghana and focused on their stories and careers. Each panelist talked about how they got their careers started, the opportunities they had, the challenges they faced, and gave advice to students. The first panelist Lily Edinam Botsyoe is a Front End Web Developer and an aspiring Tech Policy Analyst and her advice was to find a community that can support you both personally and professionally.
“To go ahead you have to get started,” Botsyoe said. “What you cannot figure out on your own, a tech community can present the journeys and expertise of many others a helpful blueprint.”
The second panelist was Priscilla Mbama Abasi a GIS Technician at a company called Zipline where she plans drone flight paths and does geospatial analysis. Her advice to students was to not let the fact that STEM is male-dominated stop them from following your dreams.
“Don’t be afraid to travel any path in STEM that is less traveled by women,” Abasi said.
The third and final panelist was Twumasiwaa Manu-Antwi who works as a metallurgist for a gold export company where she heads the gold buying department and works as the environmental officer for partner miners. Manu-Antwi echoed Abasi’s advice by telling young girls to not let gender stop them from pursuing their passions.
“Dreams and visions don’t come with gender tied to them,” Manu-Antwi said.
Math Escape Rooms
The other main program BoSTEM and SySTEMic Flow collaborated on was our two Math Escape room programs. The first of the programs took place during February break in 2021 and were focused on combining space and math together. There were three separate escape rooms focusing on different levels of math (4-5th: percentages, decimals, and fractions, 6th-8th: pre-algebra, 9th-11th: Algebra 1/Geometry) and at the conclusion of the event, there was an award ceremony combined with a Movie, Make + Meet event where students got awards for their participation and performance in the escape rooms and got to meet Sabrina Thompson, an Aerospace Engineer at NASA and author, and watch Hidden Figures. The second escape room event took place for National Math/Stat Month in May 2021 in collaboration with Boston Children’s Museum’s Collections & Archives Department. This escape room revolved around toys from the collection of the Children’s Museum, where students had to use math to help a toy named Hans to save his 58 friends from an evil thief. These two escape room events were attended by over 40 students.
If you or your company is interested in collaborating with BoSTEM and SySTEMic Flow, feel free to reach out to Alexa Rose at email@example.com. Escapes room events are a great way to help keep students interested in math which can potentially keep them on the path for a career in STEM.
BoSTEM would like to thank Jessica and everyone at SySTEMic Flow for being such great partners. If you or your student is interested in any of the programs offered by SySTEMic Flow make sure to check out their programs on their site. SySTEMic Flow is hosting an Online Math Institute Program this summer that will offer courses to help students get ahead in their math courses for school and provide tutoring and mentorship.
Find out more about all things BoSTEM, by clicking here! Interested in hosting an escape room event or My STEM Story panel with your organization? Email Alexa Rose at firstname.lastname@example.org! If you’re interested in seeing some of our STEM Chats and Bites, feel free to check out this playlist to see our full offering of programming. These potentially career-defining opportunities are not possible without our volunteers graciously offering their time. If you or someone at your company is interested in hosting a STEM Chat, Bite or one of the two events done with SySTEMic Flow, please click here!