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The JOY of STEM

It's almost like once you're made aware of how broad STEM fields are, one starts seeing them everywhere.  Today, we went to see the new film Joy by David O. Russell which tells the story of inventor, business mogul, and STEM girl Joy Mangano. 




Joy's ideas come from the world around her.  Her innovations solve authentic problems she faces. At a young age, she saw that her dog would tie itself up and choke itself. This was a problem of importance to her and she looked for a solution.  So, her first great invention was a dog collar that had reflective tape for visibility and an anti-chocking release.  Sadly, she didn't have the resources to have it patented and others eventually sold a similar collar idea to be manufactured by the Hartz Mountain.

The invention that brought her success was the Miracle Mop.  A truly innovative device I remember from my youth.



The idea was born from a need that Joy had.  Her creativity made her see that there had to be a better design for a mop that wouldn't require one to have to ring it with their hands.  She used the tools available to her to design a model.

Now to make this idea a reality required a series of designs and drafts.  It was not a one and done idea.  Joy's design process showed great critical thinking at each step.  She continued to revise her design to include features like a lightweight plastic frame and a removable, washable mop head.  These revisions only helped to make each iteration of the mop better than the last.

Joy was able to sell a small number of her mops at trade shows in her home of Long Island.  But, she couldn't do it alone. Her endeavor required collaboration. She required others to help produce, assemble, and market the mass quantities she would need to make her innovation accessible to a public audience.  Cable start up QVC helped her sell her product on air.  QVC was an innovator as well.  Not looking at the road in front of them, but what was around the curve.



Ultimately, it was Joy herself who was able to sell the product to the audience.  She was an authentic designer who was passionate about the product and knew the need it fulfilled. She created an innovation that was authentic to people's lives and could communicate it. 



Joy's story contains the elements of great STEM education and Project Based Learning. Her work is a model that shows the necessity of 
  • Authentic products that mean something to the creator 
  • Public Audience to whom the product is designed for and presented to
  • Revision of product based on peer review and testing 
  • Communication skills to present the product and the role it serves
  • Collaboration with peers to reach a common goal
  • Creativity to see a place for innovation 
  • Critical Thinking to take that creative idea and find the knowledge to make it physical
It's important that we collect these examples of real world STEM role models to help inspire our students. We must destroy the stereotype that all STEM careers look the same. 





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