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STEM Poster Contest

As a Theatre major, I spend most of my time immersed in subjects relating to the performing arts; like many other students pursuing a degree in an artistic field, I often feel the divide between the arts and sciences. Growing up, teachers often encouraged me toward reading, writing, and history, simply because these were the subjects in which I showed the highest aptitude. Moreover, I struggled in my math classes, and after a particularly lengthy insect unit in fourth grade, I lost my appetite for science. Until recently, I did not see my rejection of the “left-brain” subject areas as a disadvantage. In fact, I assumed that everyone simply discovered at some point that he or she was a “math person” or an “English person,” and pursued a career accordingly. 

In our increasingly technology-based culture, however, it is swiftly becoming clear that the time is here for American students to adhere to a more balanced curriculum. Unfortunately, the performance of students in the United States is woefully behind in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), when compared to their global peers. Such a disadvantage is a daunting barrier to the possibility of students acquiring academic fluency in all curriculum areas. This is particularly true for female students: According to Forbes.com, less than 30% of the job positions in STEM fields are held by women, and although more than half of all Bachelor’s degrees are held by women, female interest in STEM majors appears stagnant.

Luckily, the staff members at TopCoder.com, a competitive community focusing on software development and digital design, are stepping up to change the tide of female participation in the sciences. Every year, TopCoder holds a global competition for programming and design called the TopCoder Open (TCO). Recently, Jessie D’Amato Ford, the Director of Events & Educational Programs at TopCoder, noticed something interesting: The contestants at the land-based final round of the TCO were not only primarily international participants, they were also overwhelmingly male. Upon realizing this, Ms. D’Amato Ford embarked on a project to increase the number of female participants in both TCO, and in STEM areas, while also involving the growing graphic design community at TopCoder. Thus, the TopCoder STEM Poster Design Contest was born.

The purpose of the contest is to design a poster that will engage middle and high school girls (6th-12th grades) around the nation, and encourage them to discover the wonder of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, in an effort to boost their participation in these fields. Ms. D’Amato Ford believes that girls across the country possess the ability in STEM subjects; they just need someone to tell them! The contest is open to all designers in the United States, ages 18 and older, regardless of their major or career path. Designers are not required to use the acronym “STEM” or its meaning anywhere in the poster design, and as long as the poster delivers a message of empowerment, engagers female viewers, and sparks interest in STEM, the sky is the limit for design submissions! The acceptance period for posters is April 1, 2013-August 31, 2013, and winners will be announced at the TCO final in November 2013. Need more incentive to participate? Winners will receive up to $10,000 in cash prizes!

For a complete list of contest rules and details, visit http://community.topcoder.com/tco13/overview/win-tco-trips/poster-design/#overview.

Now, go design!