Skipping the DYI Makeup at Makerfest 2016

I should have guessed that the rocket would end up on the roof of the library… chalk it up to enthusiasm. I was so excited by building a rocket with my 10-year-old daughter that I didn’t consider the possibility that it would shoot up 40 feet. I just didn’t expect that from a paper rocket propelled by a bike pump.

Building the paper rocket and launching it with the PVC/bike pump launcher was the highlight of Makerfest 2016 that was put on by the Lafayette branch of the Contra Costa County Library a few Saturdays ago.

My youngest daughter and I spent hours coding in Scratch, making Gak, painting, crafting, creating structures out of marshmallows skewered with toothpicks to test seismic worthiness, and building paper rockets. (My oldest daughter was working the event as a volunteer)   

The rise in the number of Makerfests and other Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM/STEM) events is a positive sign that the importance of developing skills in these areas is becoming clear to parents, teacher, and the community at large. The work of groups like AAUW and Girl Scouts that’s driven the rising presence of so many girls at these events is particularly exciting. But, in terms of changing attitudes about girls owning a place in STEM, recent experience shows that there’s still work to do.

Our local Makerfest boasted an impressive mix of girls that looked easily 50/50. Girls definitely outnumbered boys at the Snap Circuits and other engineering tables. The organizers did a fantastic job of blending art into the science and engineering components with things like Scribble Bots and shoebox guitars.

All that said, we got off to a shaky start. When my 10-year-old daughter and I arrived, we checked in at the welcome desk. The very nice volunteer who greeted us then asked my daughter if she’d like to try the DIY makeup table.

“Ah, no thanks. I’m looking for the coding room, please?”

That’s my girl!

I truly appreciate the volunteers who take time out of their lives to make events like Makerfest possible. And, I’m sure the lady was only trying to offer something she thought my daughter would like, but my daughter is an engineer and wanted to get elbow deep in building and coding.

I couldn’t help wonder how many little boys the volunteer pointed toward the makeup table.

There’s no shortage of studies, like the one in the Harvard Business Review, showing that both men and women are often biased against girls and women in STEM. The dangerous thing about  biases is that they’re often subtle and can affect us even when we’re trying to do something nice.

The volunteer at the welcome table was a very nice lady who was trying to point my daughter toward an activity that she thought my daughter would enjoy. The problem was that she chose to recommend an activity that her own bias told her that a girl would enjoy – because girls like makeup.

It was an innocent slip and the very presence of the volunteer showed her commitment to promoting STEM/STEAM topics, but the experience highlighted the need for constant vigilance against gender bias in STEM.

It’s our mission to boost those low numbers of women and people of color in STEM fields and events like Makerfest mark growing and positive efforts in driving interest. But, we have to make sure that when our kids do pick up STEM subjects they don’t face biases that  hold them back.

How was your last Makerfest?


#STEMDad Manifesto


Fellow dads, hear my rallying cry! I find it unacceptable that my daughters face an uphill battle.  I refuse to entertain the fact that the pay gap between men and women across the employment landscape is anything but abominable. I’m heartbroken to think that girls lose interest in STEM subjects during their middle school years so that they are damned to, what data from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economics & Statistics Administration depicts as, the scraps of the labor market – fewer job opportunities at lower pay.

I want to change all of that and I know there are many dads who feel the same. Dads have a lot to bring to the solution and I want to highlight the fact that girls have no more committed ally in fighting to change the status quo than their fathers, provided we go all in on the fight.

There’s a lot at stake. It’s well discussed that women and people of color are underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, but the numbers around what that means to your daughter’s future are jarring. According to the Department of Commerce, STEM occupations are projected to grow by 17 percent from 2008 to 2018, compared to 9.8 percent growth for non-STEM occupations. STEM workers command higher wages, earning 26 percent more than their non-STEM counterparts. And STEM degree holders enjoy higher earnings even if they decide to work non-STEM occupations.

So, there’s good reason for dads to take action and the first step in creating meaningful cultural change around #WomenInSTEM is creating a positive #GirlsInSTEM culture at home.

A Culture of Expectation

It’s no accident that my daughters are aiming for careers in STEM fields – marine engineering and marine biology. It was brainwashing… Years of constant, insidious effort went into developing their interest and capabilities in STEM, as well as expectations around STEM.

Traditionally, boys are expected to be interested in STEM-related toys like computers, robots, and building sets, so much so that those toys are often packaged in “boy colors.” Girls more often than not are expected to play with pink crap.

Those expectations carry through to adolescence, where a ground-breaking survey by the Girls Scouts of America shows that girls tend to lose interest in STEM subjects in middle school. By the time girls reach adulthood, National Science Board data show that a disproportionately low number of women pursue degrees and careers in STEM fields.

The challenge for parents is changing those expectations.

It’s a lack of expectations that drew only two other girls to my daughter’s 8th-grade coding class of 30 students. In the future, we as parents and as a society should expect to see girls make up half of that coding class and we need to raise our girls accordingly.

Dads are an important part of changing those expectations and because we represent the other side of those depressing, exclusionary statistics our commitment is critical.

#STEMDads Build #GirlsInSTEM

Jeff Stern from Girls Who Code points out in his HuffPo essay that men in the STEM world have a huge role to play in changing the culture around women and girls, but even us non-STEM men can have an impact – especially if we’re dads!

Simply engaging with your kids – not even in STEMy ways – makes a difference. Research published in the Journal of Marriage and Family shows that the more time adolescents spend engaged with their parents the less likely they are to abuse drugs and alcohol or engage in other risky or illegal behavior. They also achieve higher math scores.

For girls, strong relationships with their dads place them in a particularly healthy place when it comes to making their way in what is still very much a man’s world.

Girls whose dads are actively engaged in promoting academic or athletic achievements and encouraging self-reliance and assertiveness are more likely to graduate from college and to enter the higher-paying, more demanding jobs traditionally held by males, according to research from the Institute for Family Studies.

The good news is that there’s no heavy lifting involved in engaging with you daughter, but there are three key pillars on which to build your effort.

Sharing – I love science fiction, tinkering, and swimming in the ocean. I try to share those with my girls just as I would if they were boys. I also make a special effort to understand and enjoy the things that they love.

Talking – We talk about the stuff we share. Both of my daughters come to me with the craziest questions about what would happen if Darth Vader fought Voldemort or how long you can make a straw that can still suck or how hot it has to be for teeth to melt. The best questions are the ones that we have to answer together. Talking with my kids is one of my favorite adventures.

Playing – I started playing Legos with my girls as soon as they were old enough not to choke on the pieces. We do a lot of swimming together, we practice soccer, we dismantle solar powered lawn lights to see how they work, and whenever we play together, we learn. Sometimes we learn STEM stuff, sometimes we learn about each other, but whenever we play together we learn.

Dads are a powerful force in the lives of their daughters and it’s time to make sure that we’re focused on the serious situation that our daughters will face once they leave the nest to build their own lives.

There are already a lot of dads out there rising to the challenge, but we need more. Will you join the #STEMDad movement?


Fathers Day Wisdom From The Movies

Father’s Day, Day of the Dad, the day during which we celebrate those who fulfill their Daddingly Duties! One of the most sacred of daddingly duties is the passing on of life lessons and wisdom to the offspring. Alas, as someone with neither wisdom nor the good fortune to be on the plus-side of life’s lessons, I often look to the wisdom of others or when that fails to the movies.

Yes, the wisdom of movies runs deep and they have much to teach: ET’s lesson of compassion, Rocky’s determination, and John McClane’s lesson to never take your shoes off at a fancy party in the original Die Hard.

In honor of Father’s Day, I’ve gathered some of the important – mostly – daddingly lessons that I’ve learned from the movies.

Some of the movies are just for dad, some are for the whole family, but all of them have something to teach.

Star Wars: A New Hope – Always Google someone before you kiss them… especially if you’re adopted.

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back – “Do or do not. There is no try.”

Erin Brockovich – A strong, determined woman can do anything.

Thelma and Louise – Never let Susan Sarandon drive.

The Crying Game – Things aren’t always what they seem.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly – “If you’re going to shoot, shoot. Don’t talk.”

Top Gun – Don’t let your ego write checks your body can’t cash.

Frozen – Never get engaged so some jackass you just met. (My youngest daughter’s favorite lesson)

The Karate Kid – “First learn stand. Then learn fly.”

Jungle Book – “Look for the Bare Necessities”

Finding Nemo – “Just keep swimming.”

Mary Poppins – “Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.”

Shrek – Never piss off a 400 pound green dude.

Star Wars: Attack of the Clones – Never piss off a 40 pound green dude.

What lessons have you learned from the movies that you intend to pass on?

Happy Father’s Day and Welcome to Daddingly!

Father’s Day in my house usually starts with my two girls sneaking into my room in the morning and waking me up with an original poem or song about what a great dad I am.  And they’re right, I’m a great dad. But every Father’s Day I’m filled with gratitude for how lucky I am to have such great kids (even though they do drive me crazy sometimes) and how much I love being a dad.

This year, all that warm-fuzziness overflowed and spilled out onto the internet where I plan to share the love and celebrate the crazy fun that comes from living a daddingly life.

I made up the word daddingly, but only because I couldn’t find one that quite fit what I wanted to say… and because it sounded really cool as a URL.

Fatherly is a perfectly good word, but I take it to cover more fundamental things about raising kids – providing for them, keeping them safe, ect. Daddingly, on the other hand, is doing all of that AND taking an active role in teaching and sharing yourself and your culture with your kids.

Values and culture are lenses through which we see ourselves and shape how we interact with the world. Things like our faith and ethnicity make up our values, which in turn influence our culture – what we do for fun, whether we use Windows or Mac and it’s something that we pass on to our kids, whether we know it or not.

Everything kids are exposed to influences the development of their personal culture and parents can’t control all of it. So, I choose to maximize the impact I have on the development of my kids’ personal culture by sharing the things that are important to me: Love, respect, tolerance, and the fact that Han Solo shot first.

Many of my friends live daddingly lives and whenever we get together we swap kid stories and share our different approaches to passing on our culture and values to our kids. This site is intended as an extension of that on-going discussion with an extended audience.

Just as culture is a living, growing thing with little rhyme or reason, you will find these pages growing, changing and hopping from topic to topic. We’ll talk about what movies and books every kids should see, how to perfect a parachute for a green army man or build a remote-controlled submarine or how to start kids off with poetry or debate the outcome of a fight between Darth Vader and Voldemort.

Happy Father’s Day! Now go have fun with your kids!