Building Our Own Table: Chioma Aso

Meet the founder of STEAMDivas Inc

Hello friends,

I’ve had a great response to my call to interview for Black founders and activists, and I was pleased to learn about this initiative to blend STEM with Arts. Please meet Chioma Aso…

Chioma, tell me briefly about your background prior to founding STEAMDivas Inc

I was born in Nigeria, I moved to the United States for my higher education. My academic pursuit in Electrical Engineering began at the University of Texas at Dallas for my undergraduate studies, followed by a Masters program at the University of South Florida. Along the way, the U.S. became more than just a place of study. It became my home, where I started my family.

My professional journey started in contract manufacturing, where I developed automated test systems for a variety of electronic devices. This role laid the foundation for my subsequent career shifts. I then progressed to working with Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), specializing in automated systems for electronic billboards.

Seeking new challenges and frontiers, I ventured into the space industry, taking on the role of an electronics engineer in Avionics. My career path, rich in technical expertise, eventually led me to leadership roles. I managed an Avionics department in Space, gaining valuable experience in team management and strategic leadership.

My final transition before fully focusing on STEAMDivas Inc. was managing a software team for a game engine in the gaming industry. This diverse array of experiences, from engineering to leadership in various high-tech fields, culminated in my decision to channel my expertise and passion into creating STEAMDivas Inc., a venture dedicated to empowering young girls in S.T.E.A.M (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics)

Give me the elevator pitch for STEAMDivas Inc

STEAMDivas empowers young girls through hands-on engineering and arts fusion, bridging the gender gap and building the next generation of female leaders. We do this with our innovative hackathons, mentorship programs, and subscription boxes of our hackathon kits. We also work collaboratively with schools, communities and organizations and establish partnerships with other Female STEM focused nonprofits to capitalize on the growing demand for diverse STEM talent.

And in more detail?

STEAMDivas Inc., is a dynamic non-profit dedicated to reshaping the future of STEM. We're focused on empowering young girls through a unique blend of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics education. Our mission is to bridge the gender gap in STEM by providing hands-on engineering experiences and fostering creativity and innovation.

Our approach integrates arts with traditional STEM education, making learning more engaging and developing well-rounded skills in young girls. We offer a range of workshops, events, mentorship programs, and innovative hackathon kits, including the STEAMDivas Modular robotics kit, designed to keep students up to date with the latest technology trends.

Our target audience includes girls aged 8-18, and we collaborate with schools, communities, and organizations to maximize our reach. We're also establishing partnerships with groups similar to us with focus on increasing women in STEM to capitalize on the growing demand for diverse STEM talent.

What inequity were you trying to redress?

Our goal is to increase women in STEM. We are addressing the following inequity:

1. Underrepresentation of women in STEM fields .

2. Limited early exposure of STEM to girls

3. Lack of diversity and diverse perspectives in STEM innovation

4. A more holistic approach to STEM by combing Arts and acknowledging the humanity in STEM

5.Creating networks of women who can support and build each other up

6. Changing the narrative of women in STEM and what a woman in STEM needs to be like

How’s it going? What has the response been?

The initiative at STEAMDivas is receiving a wave of enthusiasm, particularly for our innovative approach that weaves Arts into the STEM curriculum. Our focus is not just on what we teach, but how we present it. We aim to ensure that our educational methods encourage and inspire, rather than intimidate. A key aspect of our program is hands-on experience, which we believe is crucial in building confidence in our students. This practical approach is designed to empower the girls, helping them to overcome any self-doubt, negative feedback, or academic challenges they may face.

One of the most significant outcomes we've observed is the way our STEAMDivas hackathons have been received. The girls are not just engaged; they're genuinely excited about what they're learning. More importantly, we've noticed a marked increase in their interest in STEM fields. This enthusiasm isn't limited to those who are solely focused on STEM careers. By integrating Arts into our STEM activities, we're showing these young girls that their options are not limited – they can excel in both creative and technical fields.

In summary, our initiative is making strides in addressing inequity in STEM education. We're challenging the narrative around who can succeed in these fields and breaking down the barriers of imposter syndrome. The response so far has been incredibly positive, indicating that we're on the right track in creating a more inclusive and empowering learning environment

What’s next for STEAMDivas?

At STEAMDivas, we're excitedly gearing up for the next phase of our journey, with several innovative projects on the horizon. Our new website, launched in January 2024, will serve as a comprehensive virtual hub, connecting young girls, parents, mentors, and volunteers, thereby expanding our reach and impact in the STEM community​​.

In terms of funding, our goal is to secure $500,000 to bolster our initiatives, including hackathons and mentorship programs. We aim to achieve this critical funding milestone before the Summer of 2024​​.

One of our core objectives is to bridge the gender gap in STEM. Over the next decade, we are committed to significantly increasing the number of female participants in STEM careers, leveraging our continuous engagement and empowerment programs​​.

We are also striving to establish STEAMDivas as a leading name in STEM education, particularly for young girls. Within the next five years, we aim to gain national or global recognition, potentially through awards or significant partnerships, reflecting our commitment and impact in this field​​.

Our vision extends beyond local and national boundaries, as we plan to expand globally. Within the next three years, we aspire to launch STEAMDivas programs and collaborations in multiple countries, making a worldwide impact​​.

On the technological front, we're focusing on staying ahead in technology education, especially in areas like AI, modular robotics, and combating AI biases. Within the next three years, we plan to develop and launch new programs and tools that are recognized as cutting-edge in the industry​​.

A pivotal goal is to build a community of empowered women in STEM. Over the next ten years, we envision creating a vibrant platform or network where women, having benefited from STEAMDivas, become mentors and supporters for the next generation, fostering a cycle of empowerment and growth​​.

As part of our forward-looking strategy of building communities, STEAMDivas will like to create an innovative expansion to our community-building efforts. We envision establishing a physical space, a 'STEAMDiva haven', where young girls can engage in hands-on STEM experiences while forming social bonds in a nurturing environment.

This haven will be more than just a lab; it will embody the communal and therapeutic atmosphere akin to a Black hair salon. In these salons, while getting their hair done, women experience a multifaceted social hub – a place for therapy, fashion, shopping, and staying updated with the latest town gossip. We aim to create a similar vibrant atmosphere at STEAMDiva haven, blending discussions on anything that interest girls with STEM topics, fostering a unique environment where creativity meets innovation.

Imagine a space where a casual chat about nail polish sparks an idea for a safety signaling nail polish, leading to an impromptu brainstorming session and experimentation in the lab. Picture debates over scientific methods turning into friendly challenges, with participants eagerly watching as ideas come to life through experiments.

More than just a place for STEM exploration, the STEAMDiva haven will be a safe haven for girls to express their fears, emotions, and truly be themselves. It will be a sanctuary where they can connect with other women, share experiences, and find mentorship and support.

This initiative is not just about empowering young girls in STEM; it's about creating a community where they never have to doubt themselves and can always feel supported, both personally and intellectually. Our goal is to cultivate an environment that combines the joy of womanhood with the thrill of STEM discovery, making STEAMDivas a holistic, empowering, and inclusive experience.

Lastly, we aim to set industry standards through the STEAMDiva pledge, influencing corporations and organizations to prioritize gender equality and support for women in STEM. Our goal is to have a significant number of major corporations and organizations commit to this pledge within the next three years, creating a ripple effect of change and inclusivity in the industry​​.

In summary, the future for STEAMDivas is filled with ambitious goals and exciting projects, all aimed at empowering young girls and women in STEM, and creating a more inclusive and innovative future for everyone in the field

In relation to racism, what is your vision for the future?

My vision for the future, particularly in the context of racism, acknowledges a hard truth: racism, as a deeply rooted human issue, may never be completely eradicated.

However, I firmly believe in reducing its harmful impact, especially on those who suffer most from it.

To achieve this, I propose harnessing the transformative power of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics). My goal is to significantly increase the participation of Black individuals in STEM fields. This isn't about just earning higher incomes or working for big corporations, but about empowering Black communities to create spaces where they can flourish independently.

I envision a future where the natural creativity found in the Black community is channeled into STEM. We need to shift the focus from the financial benefits of STEM to the innovative solutions and opportunities it can provide. Imagine our communities where alongside every basketball court and football field, there's a STEM lab or a makerspace. These labs would be equipped with computers, gaming software, 3D printers, CNC machines, robotics, and other advanced tools, offering kids and adults alike the chance to engage in STEM activities just as easily as they play sports.

This vision isn't about choosing between arts and sciences; it's about merging them. I see a world where musicians are also tech innovators who can craft their own recording equipment, and athletes who can invent new devices to enhance their sports.

In a society where racism creates hostile environments, we can use STEM as a tool to build safer, more inclusive spaces. By doing so, we can strip racism of its power and influence, making it 'uncool.' Ultimately, my vision is to foster a community where STEM is as integral and accessible as sports and arts, creating a vibrant ecosystem of innovation, safety, and growth for everyone, regardless of race.

Is there anything I haven't asked you that you'd like to add?

For those interested in supporting STEAMDivas. We warmly welcome your involvement! There are several ways you can contribute to our mission:

Volunteering: We are always in need of enthusiastic volunteers for our hackathons. Whether you have a background in STEM or just a passion for supporting young girls in their educational journey, your time and skills can make a big difference.

Mentorship: Our students greatly benefit from mentorship. If you have expertise in any STEAM field and a desire to guide and inspire the next generation, please consider signing up as a mentor.

Connect with Us Online: To get started, simply visit our website to sign up. We also encourage you to join our Slack and Discord channels. These platforms are where our vibrant community comes together, and where we'll share upcoming opportunities for you to get involved.

Spread the Word: One of the easiest yet most impactful ways to support us is by spreading the word. Tell your friends, colleagues, and family about STEAMDivas. Encourage them to sign up their daughters, nieces, or any young girls who might benefit from our program.

Donations: Financial contributions are always appreciated. Your donations help us sustain and expand our programs, making a lasting impact on the lives of young girls interested in STEM.

Every bit of support, whether it's time, expertise, or financial aid, plays a crucial role in our mission to empower young girls through STEAM education. Let's do this together, we can make a significant difference in bridging the gender gap in STEM fields.

I don’t know about you, but I’m excited by the vision of “making racism uncool” through the fusion of arts and science. What do you think? Please connect with Chioma on her website and LinkedIn.

Thanks for reading,


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© Sharon Hurley Hall, 2024. All Rights Reserved.

I am an anti-racism educator and activist, Co-Founder of Mission Equality, the author of “I’m Tired of Racism”, and co-host of The Introvert Sisters podcast.

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