Latin Sisters Start STEM Program


Natalie Arora

STEM kits

Since the pandemic began, three Latin sisters—Isha ‘20, senior Sneha, and sophomore Medha Sharma—have been working to bring their passion for science to underprivileged children in Chicago.

When the Sharma sisters were younger, they kept themselves busy in the summer by creating their own science experiments at home. Looking to pursue their love of science, Isha, Sheha, and Medha have created a new Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) program for underprivileged children in Chicago called Inspovate.

The hybrid in-person and online program is designed to capture all the fun, learning, and wonder of the Sharma sisters’ home experiments for those who don’t have the resources, or lab-based science opportunities that would otherwise help to lead to a future in STEM.

“We were fortunate to have parents and teachers who were constantly introducing us to new aspects of STEM, and motivating us to learn more about the fields we are interested in,” Sneha said.

Medha said, “As a kid, my parents bought us butterfly kits, crystal making, volcano kits, et cetera, but many kids don’t have that opportunity.”

The sisters’ own interest in STEM inspired them to help students in schools and communities that lack the resources become inspired to go into the STEM field. After all, the best way to get young children excited about STEM is through hands-on activities, which aren’t always allotted for in a school district’s budget.

“Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, a lot of younger children didn’t have the opportunity for hands-on activities in classrooms, or even at home, since a lot of parents were busy trying to manage their online schedules,” Sneha said.

During the pandemic, when they could not engage with kids in person, the Sharmas had to improvise ways to still reach these kids and inspire them. “We hoped that these children would be able to go to our [website], or pick up kits we left at local grocery stores and libraries so they were able to get a little bit of these experimental learnings,” Sneha said.

When lockdown was over, Inspovate partnered with the Chicago Public Library, Comer Youth Center, and public parks to host in-person sessions.

“We typically do a couple demonstrations of some sort of STEM experiment, but we mainly aim to give the kids some hands-on learning projects, like building bridges or designing a water filter, so they are able to be creative and learn about how STEM can be applied to daily life,” Medha said.

The sisters recognized that it can be difficult for parents to get their children to these locations at a designated time, so they launched a website earlier this year and are currently working on an app. The goal of the electronic platform is to give children access to the experiments online, without having to worry about where or when the in-person sessions are occurring.

Isha said, “It’s a very accessible app and we are trying to make it where it wouldn’t need costly data, WiFi access, and things like that, which would have a database and machine learning platform to help students get experiments with everyday materials, so that they can do it at home.”

Sneha said, “We have been focused on underprivileged kids or organizations such as Comer Youth Center until now, but it would be great to do events at Latin.”

Medha added, “Maybe with High Jump or Summer at Latin.”

Inspovate is a stepping stone for kids in underprivileged neighborhoods to successfully enter STEM fields. Watch out as the Sharma sisters continue to inspire and motivate!