Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM): Education for the Future

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As we have an increasingly complex world, science, technology, engineering, and math play more important roles than ever before.   Whether it is the use of robotics in manufacturing, artificial intelligence (AI) in productivity or the science protecting our planet from global warming, STEM education is vital to our future.  The U.S. Department of Education recognizes that youth need ” to be equipped with the knowledge and skills to solve tough problems, gather and evaluate evidence, and make sense of information.”

Yet today, few American students pursue expertise in STEM fields—and we have an inadequate pipeline of teachers skilled in those subjects

Meet Shwetal Shah, a young lady still in her 20’s and the driving force behind the organization, Explore Science which is aiming to change the way youth views STEM.  She is a TEDx organizer and speaker as well as a STEM workshop developer.

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Shwetal was born in Mumbai and completed her Bachelors of Mass Media major in Advertising) from Mumbai University and Masters (MSc International Marketing) from Glasgow.

I was always very interested in Science and it came easily to me as opposed to history. Due to a few reasons, I couldn’t pursue science academically. However professionally I work at a software consultancy and started an organization called Explore Science to promote STEM.

I was a very active kid, went to art classes, dance classes, played a lot of sport and pursued volunteering. I have a very supportive and liberal family, always pushing me towards success and achieve more.

Fab. Fem. When did you get the interest in entrepreneurship?

Shwetal:  I have always been a very curious child, looking for new challenges; doing, creating, developing and promoting it. When I was 16 I enrolled in a 2 day perfume making workshop. Before I realized I started selling those perfumes.  When I moved to Scotland, I was helping a friend develop and test an electric bike business idea, and started organizing entrepreneur weekend events for university students. It must come from my father who has been very entrepreneurial from a very young age and subconsciously observing him may have led to the interest in entrepreneurship.

Fab. Fem. Could you tell us a bit about your perfume company?   How did you start it, how do you sell your products and where did you find your customers?   What do you do with the profits?  (give away, plow back into the business etc?)

Shwetal: The perfume company was a hobby as opposed to a business, I enrolled in a 2 day workshop during my high school summer holidays and then started getting some interest from friends and family, so instead of giving it away I decided to make some money off it, this money was used to then buy toys which I distributed to a local hospital in Mumbai.

Fab. Fem. You do a lot of work helping youth with entrepreneurship, can you tell us about how you got interested in helping youth.  Is it just STEM entrepreneurs, women entrepreneurs, or any entrepreneurs?

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Shwetal: I get bored really easily and love working on new things, that’s where my interest in helping other entrepreneurs stems from, I have taken part in a few hackathons too, most of it has been related to STEM projects (e-bike, perfumes, explore science, other startups  I have mentored)

Fab. Fem.What are your secrets for getting businesses to fund your initiatives as sponsors or judges for Explore Science?

Shwetal: The market is cluttered with a lot of things, most things these days exist in multiple forms, but there would always be something unique that you can offer which no one else can, being able to identify that is the key to convincing corporates to sponsor you or work with you.

Fab. Fem. Can you talk about your Explore Science initiative and explain what kind of app you are developing for Explore Science.

Shwetal: Explore Science invites a scientist each month to talk about their research and inspire the younger generations to be aware of all the exciting opportunities in the field of sciences from an astrophysicist from MIT to a biologist at KTN, research scientist from Yahoo, founder of a robotics startup using AR/VR to name just a few of the scientists that are inspiring the future scientists. I am currently looking at developing workshops for this.

Fab. Fem. We see from your explore science website that you talk about 3D doodle pen, app making, raspberry Pi, Robot Making, Chemistry-Perfume Making.   Do you give classes/talks to students on these subjects?

Shwetal: Yes, there will be classes from now on and hands on workshops that I aim to deliver.

Fab. Fem. What is your wish for women entrepreneurs or girls who want to become entrepreneurs?

 Shwetal:  It has never been easier, with multiple resources out there for free to learn from, social media to connect, sell and learn from, it’s about when and not how? I would wish for anyone who wants to start on this path to go out seek a mentor online and start doing.

Fab. Fem. What kind of skills do you think women need to have to start a business?

Shwetal: Research skills are the most important and basic tech skills that can open up the digital world and the global platform. The ability to be patient and hustle and be a good people person, because the Jackie of all trades and master of none leads to a sunken ship. If you are able to build a strong team that can help you build your empire you will have won half the battle.

Do you think you will become a full-time entrepreneur at some time in your life and what kind of business interests you?

Shwetal: I have not considered this yet, but a tech for good social enterprise is my ideal life calling.

Fab. Fem. Is there anything else you would like to say to women entrepreneurs?

Teamwork is Dream Work, It’s great to have this platform of so many talented women that one can collaborate with.

About Shwetal Shah:  Shwetal is a creative and highly motivated individual with two year’s experience working in communications, media, account management and client facing roles in Mumbai and London, U.K. Capable of working in a team and leading teams with excellent communication skills driven to achieve the set goals and objectives.

With keen enthusiasm to develop in different sectors of tech, media, entrepreneurship and policy she has sought out mentors and mentored others. Honing her soft skills and resourcefulness working in different environments and with different demographics at the same time. Whether academic projects with students and industry related projects in the field of strategic consulting or cross-border product launch research, market analysis, communications and PR campaigns with professionals enhancing the ability to work in challenging and demanding environments.

Junior consultant at a group of 3 IT companies in London (OSSCube- system integration, One point IQ- Big Data Analytics, One point consulting- IT consulting and Entreprise Architecture services).

  • Organized 3 days Startup for Queen Mary University Students, enabling a 48 hour startup weekend for student entrepreneurs. Responsible for Sponsorship, Mentors, and Judges, getting £2000 worth of sponsorship and mentors and judges from eBay, IBM, skype, OSScube in the UK.
  • Founded Explore Science, managed to get £2500 in funding for it, keeping the talks open and free for all in London. (working on developing an App for it).
  • Won the Best STEM project for Explore Science by o2 Think Big, BCSWomen have asked to co-host Explore Science and partnered with Vibe Youth Radio for broadcasting the events live.
  • Speaker coordinator for TEDx Strathclyde.
  • Entrepreneurial skills in developing, promoting and starting up a perfume business right out of high school.

Author, Elaine Slatter, is the Founder of Fabulous Fempreneurship, and author of the book by the same title.  Elaine is the owner of XL Consulting Group, a small business advisory for startups and small business.