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Abstract

Stimulating girls’ interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) when they are in school, and sustaining that interest, is critical in motivating girls to choose STEM-related disciplines in higher education and enter STEM careers. Research indicates that girls show an interest in STEM until about 11-12 years of age, but this starts to wane by the time they are 15-16 years. Thus, there is a clear need to focus on sustaining the interest of girls in STEM at middle or high school levels. Research has shown that one of the main drivers that impact girls’ interest in STEM is hands-on experience with real-world problems. In this paper, we propose a strategy to provide middle-to-high school aged girls (13-17 years) with the opportunity to engage with biological concerns that are relevant to them (such as menstruation and teenage pregnancy), and socially pertinent issues (for example, global warming and pollution), as tools to develop, sustain and enhance their interest in STEM during these formative years. This strategy utilizes the prevalence of the smartphone among young people in this age group, and the availability of suitable free or low-cost mobile applications to address the problem of a ‘leaky’ STEM pipeline.

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