Classroom Resources to Celebrate Ada Lovelace Day!
10 inspiring female STEM renegades, plus a free poster of 9 women math pioneers!
Why is it important to celebrate Ada Lovelace Day on October 11? Because role models from both the past and present are key in breaking the outmoded thinking that is the basis for the gender gap in STEM. Women like Ada Lovelace give our female students the confidence that they are capable of earning degrees in mathematics, science, engineering, and technology, and that they can overcome the stereotypes keeping them from breaking into lucrative careers that require deep knowledge of these subjects.
In honor of Ada Lovelace Day, here are 9 inspiring STEM renegades throughout history—all women! And Download our free poster of Nine Women Who Changes Our World, female math pioneers including Ada Lovelace!
9 Female Stem Renegades
1. Ada Lovelace
Why she’s a renegade: Ada Lovelace has been called the “Mother of the Computer Age,” so it’s no wonder that there’s an international holiday to honor her! Ada, daughter of the renowned poet Lord Byron, was the first computer programmer.
Her contribution to STEM: She’s best known for writing the first algorithm designed for a machine in the mid-1800s, a century before the computer was invented, along with technology pioneer Charles Babbage.
2. Sophie Germain
Why she’s a renegade: As a young girl in Paris, Sophie’s parents forbid her to study math, a subject relegated to men in the late 1700s. When they discovered her studying mathematics on her own, they took away her candles and left the fire in her room unlit. Legend has it that Sophie studied by the light of small candles, huddled in blankets. She was also denied entry into the École Polytechnique due to her gender, and submitted a memoir to distinguished mathematician J. L. Lagrange under a male student’s name. Her contribution to STEM: Lagrange was so impressed that he became her mentor and she went on to establish Fermat’s Last Theorem, used as a foundation in mathematics well into the 20th century.
3. Katherine Johnson
Why she’s a renegade: This matriarch of astrophysics is still making history at 97 years old!
Her contribution to STEM: Johnson’s work as a physicist and mathematician at NASA’s Langley Research Center spanned from 1953 to 198
4. Annie Easley
Why she’s a renegade: Few people have the brilliance to be a mathematician and a computer scientist. To top it off, Annie Easley was a rocket scientist!
Her contribution to STEM: She spent 34 years (1955 to 1985) at NASA, and was influential in making modern space travel possible. She was a leading member of the team that developed software for the Centaur rocket stage, and one of the first African-Americans in her field. Easley’s secret to success? Her mother told her that anything was possible.
5. The World War II Female Codebreakers
Why they are renegades: Cryptologist Joan Clarke (pictured above) is the most famous of this brigade of thousands of British women who saved countless lives through their work as codebreakers at Bletchley Park during World War II. Recently, 70 female codebreakers have shared their stories in The Debs of Bletchley Park and Other Stories. By night they slept in huts so cold their flannel nightgowns froze. By day they worked in secret, in a cold and dank Edwardian Mansion, wading through reams of paper to help decode Germany’s attack plans.
Their contribution to STEM: Clarke was instrumental in helping mathematician Alan Turing crack the enigma code that the Nazis used in radio communications to disclose where they were planning to attack. About 12,000 people worked at Bletchley Park, and 80 percent of them were women.
6. Dr. Jenna Carpenter, Advocate
Why she’s a renegade: Dr. Carpenter, a highly regarded STEM educator, is associate dean for undergraduate studies, and director of the Office for Women in Science and Engineering at Louisiana Tech University’s College of Engineering and Science. Her title may be impressive, but it’s what she has to say about how to encourage girls to study engineering in college that blows people away! Check out Dr. Jenna Carpenter’s TEDX Talk about how to encourage girls to study engineering in college.
Her contribution to STEM: Dr. Carpenter is the founding dean of Campbell University’s School of Engineering, launching in 2016. She regularly advises and speaks to schools and businesses about diversity, mentoring, and professional development for women in engineering.
7. Brittany Wenger
Why she’s a renegade: When Brittany Wenger was fifteen, her cousin was diagnosed with breast cancer. Two years later, the girl computer whiz designed an artificial brain to detect signs of this devastating disease that took home first prize in the 2012 Google Science Fair!
Her contribution to STEM: Today, Wenger is a computer science major at Duke University. Her breast cancer test, which has its own app, is now in beta tests with two cancer research centers.
8. Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo!
Why she’s a renegade: The current CEO of Yahoo! had 14 job offers after graduating in 1999 with a Masters in Computer Science from Stanford University.
Her contribution to STEM: Mayer is an inspiring role model for young women who are interested in launching a STEM career. She chose to work at Google during a spring break period in which, she told CNN, she made all the decisions she is most proud of. “Those decisions all had two things in common: I always surrounded myself with the smartest people I could find, because they make you think about things harder … And I always did something I was a little not ready to do. I think that’s how you grow.”
9. NASA’s Datanauts: STEM Women on a Mission
Why they are renegades: Molecular biologist Jennifer Lopez spearheaded the founding class of “datanauts“, data scientists who will pioneer new insights from the exponentially growing repository of data that includes technical and scientific datasets, records, reports, simulations, videos, images, and other information. Ariel Waldman (pictured above) is in the founding class of 18 women.
Their contribution to STEM: Lopez is leading NASA in boldly going where no one at the space agency has gone before: to make sense of the vast amount of data it collects through satellites, telescopes, robots, spacecraft, and laboratories, among other means. Waldman is the founder of Spacehack.org, a directory of ways to participate in space exploration, and the global director of Science Hack Day, an event that brings together scientists, technologists, designers, and people with good ideas to see what they can create in one weekend.
10. Dr. Karen Panetta
Why she’s a renegade: The Tufts University professor of Engineering is known as the “Princess Warrior” of Engineering and Science education. She’s the founder of Nerd Girls, a global movement which celebrates “smart-girl” individuality in science, technology, engineering, and math.
Her contribution to STEM: Dr. Panetta has been instrumental in shifting attitudes about women engineers. Nerd Girl engineers have solved real-world problems in tech fields, transportation, green technologies, and more, to improve the lives of others, the environment, and the world.
Want more girl power to share with your class? Check out our list of women in STEM who rock, and 8 cool websites to get girls psyched about STEM!
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