k2i academy and TDSB engage girls in STEM

young girls doing science

With the goal of encouraging girls to explore science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) pathways and United Nations Sustainable Development Goals ( UN SDGs), the k2i academy – an initiative by York University’s Lassonde School of Engineering – engaged with students at the Young Women on the Move: Possibilities Conference at Runnymede Elementary School, hosted by the Toronto District School Board (TDSB).

Since June 2020, the k2i academy and the TDSB have worked in partnership to foster a variety of programs aimed at breaking down barriers in STEM education. For example, the Bringing STEM to Life: In Schools initiative has brought experiential education to schools across the Greater Toronto Area, and the recently 407 ETR-funded Work Integrated Learning Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Fund will expand STEM offerings to under-represented students throughout the area, too.

The most recent example of the partnership, the Young Women on the Move event, engaged 200 girls from eight different elementary schools through an engineering design challenge – with a focus on the SDG priority on sustainable cities and communities ­– organized by the k2i team.

Mentors and k2i academy staff guided the students through building prototypes of earthquake-resilient structures, underlining the importance of creating inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable urban environments. In the process, they learned about earthquakes, the principles of stable structures, and the iterative process of designing, building and testing their prototypes using shaker testing tables.

This practical, hands-on experience introduced the girls to the engineering design process, emphasizing problem-solving and creativity in addressing real-world issues.

“Through our Possibilities Conference, we wanted to empower young women to see the endless possibilities available to them by building their confidence, breaking down barriers and stereotypes, and encouraging them to explore non-traditional courses of study,” says Lauren Rovas, vice-principal and Possibilities Conference lead organizer, TDSB. 

As a result, the k2i academy and the TDSB continue their shared purpose, and partnership, in encouraging the future of STEM careers being more inclusive.

“As a woman who studied physics, it is important for me to encourage and inspire the next generation of girls to consider STEM career pathways,” says Lisa Cole, director of programming, k2i academy. “k2i is thrilled to partner with TDSB to design and deliver programs that encourage youth to discover their curiosities, develop skills in coding and engineering design, and reach students and families who may not have considered STEM pathways.”