Dr. Gina Cherkowski recognized as Alberta Women Entrepreneurs’ Emerging Innovator for 2018

STEM Learning Lab’s own Dr. Gina Cherkowski was honoured this week as the recipient of Alberta Women Entrepreneurs’ Emerging Innovator award during their 2018 Celebration of Achievement and Entrepreneur Awards. The annual AWE Awards, held on Wednesday, April 25, recognize women who have made a significant contribution to the business community in Alberta.

The Emerging Innovator award recognizes an entrepreneur who has built an innovation-based business and who has achieved early success with strong market potential.

Gina is known internationally as an educational game changer on a mission to ensure all students have access to high quality STEM learning experiences. “Our world today is technology-rich,” said Dr. Cherkowski. “I believe all kids can, and should, be proficient in math and STEM fields so they’re ready to take on the challenges and opportunities in front of them.”

“We believe outstanding women deserve to be celebrated,” shared Marcela Mandeville, CEO, Alberta Women Entrepreneurs. “The recipients of this year’s awards have made impactful contributions to their communities and Alberta’s economy, and we are proud to recognize them as business role models and inspiring members of our community.”

“Small and medium sized businesses are essential to driving our economy forward and the diversity of this year’s finalists showcases what a world class entrepreneurial centre Alberta has become,” said Teresa Clouston, Executive Vice President, ATB Business & Agriculture. “This year’s winners are each helping to grow our province in their own unique way and ATB is proud to support them and other female entrepreneurs in partnership with AWE.”

We would also like to celebrate the three amazing women who were also recognized during the AWE Awards:

Celebration of Achievement Award Recipient: Eveline Charles, CEO, Eveline Charles Hair Salons and Day Spas

AWE Upsurge Award Recipient: Amanda Hamilton, Founder and Creative Director, Amanda Hamilton Design

AWE Emerging Award Recipient: Sylvia Cheverie, Owner, Chartier

Girls and Robotics Camp

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I got to spend this week with Hillary Clinton, Taylor Swift, and Bruno Mars.  Hillary gave an amazing speech, while Bruno did a headstand and Taylor “shook it off.”  Also, there was a cameo by Queen Beyonce herself.  This amazing experience was created by 8 wonderful girls ages 8-15 during a Robotics camp.

As a scientist, I often approach robots as gears and motors governed by an all-powerful script.  Through the combination of logic, physics, and moving parts, something beautiful is created.  I feel connected to the problem I’m solving.  In the classroom, students don’t often connect to the learning.  When solving a mathematical problem, students don’t develop a caring relationship with each number.   But what if they did?  How would the learning experience change?

JD is a humanoid robot created by EZ Robots.  During the week of camp the girls learned how to build and configure JD.  They also programed JD to greet people, have conversations and dance.  All the mathematics, physics, coding, spatial and visual skills gained during this week proved that every single member of this group has a place in the technical world and as a future innovator.   But that did not eclipse some of the other strengths that were gained in this time.

From the moment the robots were put together, these girls demonstrating caring and nurturing.  The robots were new friends, they immediately had a personality.  When being configured, the robot lets out a buzzing sound when any of the servos are stressed.  The girls would respond to them as a parent does a child.  The physical problem of configuring the motors to have minimal stress became about making their friends comfortable.  Getting a robot to move involves some very high level math transformation skills.  It made me think of my dreaded geometry class.

I always had difficulty translating shapes into different spaces.  I remember the tests where we were given graph paper and had to translate shapes into different spaces.  I never got the right answer.  That shaped my attitude that I was a failure at visual and spatial reasoning.

However, if the girls could not get a movement to work at first, or if their robot fell (or in one case decapitated itself), they picked the robot up, gave it a quick hug, and went back to trying.  They developed resilience towards the frustration that arises when things don’t go the way you want.  They were able to look at why something didn’t work and find a solution.  They demonstrated critical thinking.

This resilience is needed in order to find success and satisfaction.  If coders did not plow through the frustration of bugs, this blog would not exist, nor would the internet.  This camp showed me how we can use STEM education as a platform to  build a future of innovative, risk-taking, and resilient citizens.

Advancing Women in STEM

“I recently took part on a panel discussion at Simon Fraser University’s BCNET conference discussing ideas and thoughts on how to attract and retain more women in information technology fields (IT). With me there were three other fabulous women who are veterans in the industry. We all had the same goal: to shed a light on women in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) industry.”

Read moreAdvancing Women in STEM

STEM equals opportunities for all!

In the past 10 years, growth in STEM jobs has been three times greater than non-STEM jobs.

80% of the fastest growing occupations in the United States depend upon mastery of mathematics and scientific knowledge and skills.

While women comprise 48% of the US workforce, just 24% are in STEM fields, a statistic that has held constant for nearly the last decade.

Read moreSTEM equals opportunities for all!