Google is a company that is well-known. They’ve become their own brand, they have changed the landscape of technology, and their name has even become a verb used in every day speech. That’s a big deal. You know their search engine, their maps, their browser and everything else they’ve created to help run the world, but did you know that they also support STEM education so that the next generation can run the world?
Guess who else is helping to break science barriers and support education – Disney Junior! Not only are their shows, like Miles From Tomorrowland entertaining, but they’re educational.
When Google calls, you answer, especially if it’s to meet a NASA astronaut, the creator of Miles From Tomorrowland, a Google engineer, the sexy brains behind the #iLookLikeAnEngineer movement, and the director of programming at Disney Junior.
Google even has a special team that works with Hollywood to examine the perception of computer science as it may be presented on-screen to help them move away from the stereotypical hacker, nerd image that many may traditionally think of.
What Is STEM And What Does It Have To Do With Miles From Tomorrowland?
If you have kids, you’re likely familiar with Disney Junior’s Miles From Tomorrowland. While this show is entertaining and educational for everyone that watches, it is especially appealing for girls. The captain of the family’s ship is Miles’ mom. Of the two kids, the one most interested in science is Loretta, Miles’ sister.
Loretta’s interest in science and coding is a huge part of STEM education and encouraging kids’ interest. STEM (or STEAM) is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education. These fields are deeply intertwined in the real world and in how students learn most effectively.
How Google Supports Women In Science And STEM
It’s hard not to be humbled when you’re in a room full of geniuses that are changing the world, simply by believing in science and not letting the traditional stigmas deter them. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity at an amazing place that many of us have only dreamed of going – Google’s HQ.
Sascha Paladino is the creator of Disney Junior’s Miles From Tomorrowland. He’s also helped create Blue’s Clues and Wonder Pets!
“I was really into space when I was a kid, but I wasn’t really that great at science,” Paladino told us. He preferred the arts and wanted to find a way to merge his two interests. When he found out he’d be a father of twins, it inspired him to find adventure – something he thought he wouldn’t do once he had a family.
“The crazy thing is,” Paladino said, “once I had kids, I realized that the adventures you have are better once your family is with you. It makes them more special and unique. And that’s what the heart of Miles From Tomorrowland is.”
Angela Navarro is a Google engineer as well as a consultant for TV shows and movies on which Google consults. “I got involved in this project by getting involved with Google’s Computer Science and Media Project,” Navarro told us. “The purpose of this team… when Google does research on why women are making the decision to not pursue computer science or engineering, they’re really making that decision in their teens or tweens and the number two reason is perception of the world.”
Navarro said the common perception about computer science and engineering fields is that it’s a really anti-social, male dominated field and there’s not room for women. What girls are seeing on screen further pushes that stigma and doesn’t make them feel welcomed in the fields.
“We’ve been working with TV shows and movies and Miles From Tomorrowland is one of the shows I’ve consulted on.”
Dr. Yvonne Darlene Cagle is an American NASA astronaut and consults for Miles of Tomorrowland. “I was just excited when Disney Junior came calling and it was just a wonderful way to take the joy and the love and the passion of training and what we do preparing to go off-planet and explore deep space,” Cagle shared with us, “to bring it back down to Earth, to bring it home.”
She said the beauty of what you see from space doesn’t communicate well, so a show like Miles of Tomorrowland is a beautiful way to share the views that so few get to see.
“I love Miles the more that I see it, and Phoebe and Loretta and the whole family – I’m starting to feel like we’re getting mentoring up, that Miles is making me smarter,” Cagle said. “We know as parents, our kids make us smarter, so I think there’s a wonderful exchange that goes on between Miles and the whole concept of STEM/STEAM… and learning – it’s a way for kids of all ages to learn and to grow and to have fun together.”
Isis Anchalee is a software engineer and on the advisory board for Women Who Code. She, perhaps, is most familiar with the stigma that is put onto women in science fields.
“I was pre-med and realized that I wanted to do software engineering and that I could teach myself,” Anchalee said. “My company asked me to be part of a campaign that was targeting other engineers. They featured a photo of me with a quote about what I liked about working with the company with two other male co-workers. When the ads came out, people were shocked and they were taking photos of my ad in particular.”
These people were apparently in disbelief that someone who looks as Isis does could be an engineer. She wrote this blog post called “You May Have Seen My Face On Bart” that overnight went viral.
“People reached out, wanting to express support for the message. So then the hashtag #iLookLikeAnEngineer was created which, in the first few weeks, was tweeted over 175,000 times and it was an opportunity for stereotype-breaking engineers to celebrate their differences instead of feeling like they were excluded.”
Diane Ikemiyashiro is the director of original programming for Disney Junior and executive-in-charge for Miles From Tomorrowland. “What you see on your tablets and TV screens and phones, it takes hours, it takes months, even a year to just do one 11 minute episode. It’s an amazing scientific and artistic feat,” she says of the show.
“We at Disney, we feel it’s a great privilege to not only entertain, but also to, if we can, inspire, educate,” Ikemiyashiro said. “Through our programming, our main focus is to bring kids to our worlds so they can look at our characters and think ‘I love what they’re doing, that’s different’ or ‘I feel like I can fit it’. All of our shows, especially with Miles, we create these worlds and these different experiences so that kids and adults can talk and be inspired.“