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Women’s Contributions to STEAM

At Kids Co., we plan fun and engaging projects that make STEAM accessible for ALL kids. Playing in this space inspires curiosity and wonder, develops skills in planning and problem-solving, and builds confidence and self-esteem. Recently, some of our kids had a blast designing rockets, got a thrill out of building a paper rollercoaster for marbles, and got a little messy modeling with clay. When possible, we love to supplement our center learning by bringing our kids out into the community to help ignite their creative spark.

What is STEAM? STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, art, and math. STEAM is usually used to describe educational programs or career paths. Throughout history, pioneers in STEAM have innovated, invented, and inspired us with their incredible contributions. Some groups have historically been and continue to be unrecognized and underrepresented in STEAM, such as individuals who identify as female and/or BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color). Last month, we recognized the contributions of Black innovators to STEM. For Women’s Herstory Month, we are shining a light on some of the many women who have brought their unique talents to science, technology, engineering, art, and math.


Patricia Bath: Ophthalmologist, inventor, visionary

Patricia Bath was a true visionary in the field of ophthalmology. After earning her medical degree at the Howard University College of Medicine, Bath interned at Harlem Hospital and completed a fellowship at Columbia University. These diverse experiences opened her eyes to inequities in the healthcare system. She found that rates in blindness among Black patients was almost twice that of their white counterparts. To improve access to eye care for ALL individuals, Bath created a concept of community ophthalmology. This process, which brings eye exams into communities, continues to save the sight of thousands of individuals every year.

In addition to changing the way we treat eye patients, Bath also revolutionized the treatment of cataracts. She invented the the laserphaco probe. The probe is a surgical tool that uses a minimally-invasive technique to vaporize cataracts. With this device, and keratoprosthesis, the implantation of a prosthetic cornea, Bath was able to restore sight to patients who had been blind for up to thirty years! Bath also co-founded the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness, which continues Bath’s legacy.

Museum Spotlight: Seattle Children’s Museum Community Clinic

Kids can test their vision, try on glasses, and more at this mini clinic play area. Seattle Children’s Museum is designed for children ages 10 and under and offers a variety of areas to play in and explore. The museum is located inside the Armory at Seattle Center, so there is lots to explore nearby. And if you’re craving more science, the Pacific Science Center is just a short walk away.

Learn more about Patricia Bath

Learn about other female medical pioneers


Hedy Lamarr: “the mother of Wi-Fi

Born in Austria, Hedy Lamarr was always curious. From a young age, her father taught her about how things worked and encouraged her tinkering. While acting became her day job, Lamarr never lost her love of inventing. She continued to tinker and innovate throughout her life, designing a new style of plane for Howard Hughes, an improved stoplight, a soda tablet, and more. As America got involved in World War II, Lamarr, in partnership with George Antheil, a composer and pianist, invented a type of “frequency hopping technology” designed to block interference into torpedoes.

Wi-FiWhile the military never implemented Lamarr’s and Antheil’s technology. It laid the groundwork for  GPS, Bluetooth, and other wireless communication technology, earning her the nickname “the mother of Wi-Fi”. Lamarr never benefited financially for this technological breakthrough, but she was recognized for her work later in life. She and Antheil jointly received the Electronic Frontier Foundation Pioneer Award in 1997. She was also the first women to be honored with Invention Convention’s Bulbie Gnass Spirit of Achievement and was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Museum Spotlight: Living Computers Museum + Labs

Kids can learn all about computers, try their hand at creating video games, and some much more at this all-ages museum. While the museum is currently closed, due to the pandemic, there is lots of online content to engage with and explore. While you wait for the museum to reopen, bring the family to try out Indie Videos Games at MoPOP or learn about Seattle innovations at the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI).

Learn more about Hedy Lamarr

Learn about more female tech pioneers


Stephanie L. Kwolek: Chemical engineer, inventor of Kevlar

Stephanie Kwolek first became interested in science through her father, a naturalist. From her mother, she learned to love fabric and sewing. After graduating from Carnegie Mellon University, Kwolek took a job at DuPont Laboratories. She credits her assertiveness with getting her the job, but it was Kwolek’s love of science and fibers that kept her there. She worked on many projects, but her most well-known success was discovering a special type of polymer. This discovery led directly to the production of Kevlar, a super-strong fiber used in bullet-proof vests, transatlantic cables, bridges, boats, and even frying pans.Inventors Hall of Fame

In 1994, Stephanie Kwolek became the fourth woman to be inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. She also received the National Medal of Technology and the Society of Chemical Industry’s Perkin Medal. Additionally, she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 2003. Kwolek was also dedicated to mentoring other women in science and to helping young people understand and love science.

Museum Spotlight: Burke Museum

Pay homage to Stephanie Kwolek’s father, who started his daughter on her scientific journey, with a trip to the Burke Museum. Explore their biology and paleontology galleries to foster curiosity about science and the natural world. Visit the other galleries to learn about the cultures and arts of the Pacific Northwest and beyond. As a Smithsonian Affiliate, the Burke is free to the public on the First Thursday of each month. Complete the experience with a stop at Off the Rez Café for a sweet or savory fry bread dish. The café is located at the museum with a street entrance. Bonus: Give a nod to Kowlek’s mother too. Visit the new (March-May 2023) textile exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) and envision science and art coming together to inspire Stephanie Kwolek’s work.

Learn more about Stephanie Kwolek

Learn about other important female engineers


Emily Mulenga: Millennial artist

Digital ArtsArt encompasses creativity, from music to painting to poetry, and so much more. Emily Mulenga takes many different mediums and concepts and combines them into modern art experiences. Her work incorporates still images, videos, 3-D objects, and sound to explore topics of feminism, consumerism, and what it’s like to be a Millennial.

Emily Mulenga has been recognized for her unique style and prospective. She was recently named the 2023 Futures Awards Digital Arts Fellow by The Arts Foundation in the UK. She has displayed her work at several solo and duo shows and a multitude of group shows around the UK and beyond.

Museum Spotlight: Seattle NFT Museum

Explore the fun and unique world of a digital art of NFTs (Non-fungible Tokens). This unique museum is located in Belltown and admission is by donation. If you are looking for a more traditional art museum, the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) is just a 10-minute walk down 1st Avenue.  On a nice day, head north instead and visit the Olympic Sculpture Park, an outdoor (and free) extension of SAM that runs along the waterfront. Adults will also enjoy the wellness and art classes, in addition to the exhibits, at the Frye, a free museum in the First Hill neighborhood.

Learn more about Emily Mulenga

Learn about important female painters and check out this book celebrating female artists


Christine Darden: NASA mathematicianMath

Christine Darden studied and taught high school math in Virginia before earning her master’s degree in applied mathematics, and later teaching, at Virginia State University. In 1967, she took a position at NASA Langley as one of the “human computers” immortalized in the book and film, “Hidden Figures”. Six years later, Darden began working on supersonic flight. This became her focus for the bulk of her professional career. It led to a doctorate in mechanical engineering and over 30 publications to her name.

Christine Darden was recognized for her contributions to aeronautics and aircraft design with the Women in Aerospace Lifetime Achievement Award, the Black Engineer of the Year Award for Outstanding Achievement in Government, the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal, and the NASA Equal Opportunity Medal. She was honored with the Congressional Gold Medal in 2019 and was the first African American woman to be appointed to the rank of Senior Executive Service at NASA Langley. Throughout her career and life, she has worked to help educate and inspire generations to pursue careers in aerospace science and engineering.

Learn more about Christine Darden

Learn about the women of NASA’s past and present

Want to learn more about STEAM?

What is STEAM Education?

Check out this book with 52 STEAM projects to try with your kids

More from Kids Co.:

Black Innovators’ Contributions to STEM

Celebrating Female Authors Then and Now

Kids can get a taste of STEAM by attending Kids Co. summer camps

Help us inspire the next generation of innovators by giving to Kids Co.