We're Elizabeth and Rachel, two scientists who bicycled from San Francisco to New York City between April 17 and July 14, 2015.
As we pedaled east, we taught hands-on lessons at middle schools and summer programs using the Sol Cycle, a miniature, 3D-printable, solar-powered bicycle that we have designed. We also profiled science educators about innovation in the classroom and curating science lesson plans, and are in the process of creating a repository of accessible, engaging activities for parents, kids and teachers alike. Read more about our adventure on our Blog page!
We met while studying physics at UCLA. But neither of us entered school thinking we'd be scientists. Rachel arrived, trombone strapped to her back, set on a career in music. Elizabeth signed up to study English, hoping to side gig at the student newspaper. Curious about physics, we both enrolled in the same one-unit seminar on "The Arrow of Time" as freshmen.
A couple years and one backpacking trip to the Alps later, we found ourselves burning the midnight oil together in a particle physics lab. Now, we're both headed toward careers in science: Elizabeth is a Mechanical Engineering PhD student at Cornell University. Rachel is researching materials science and solar energy at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, and is still figuring out where she's heading for her PhD next fall (2016).
On our trip, our goal was to show the students we met that scientists aren’t all old white guys with calculators growing out of their beards, who spend 24/7 in underground labs and have been tinkering with circuits since preschool. We hoped to demonstrate how creative science can be and how much it already impacts their day-to-day lives.
Seriously though, diversity and engagement are two of the most pressing issues in science education. We don’t think we can solve these problems (at least not yet!), but this trip has sparked many conversations, and we hope it has inspired a few kids to become scientists and created lasting resources for educators to use in their classrooms.
Want to read more about the gender gap in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)? Check out the 2010 report from the American Association of University Women.
From February to March 2015 we ran a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to raise money for Sol Cycle prototyping, 3d printing and other educational costs associated with the trip. We reached and passed our goal! Here's the video from the campaign: