If your daughter loved Shuri in 'Black Panther,' she'll love these badass STEM programs.

I swear they didn't get it from me, but my daughters are mega math-haters.

Recently, my 13-year-old expressed her displeasure with her algebra homework, finally exclaiming, "Ugh, I hate math!"

Thankfully, her 17-year-old sister — who has declared her hatred for math many times herself — came to the rescue.


"Ella, you know what helps me lately when I get annoyed with my math homework?" she said. "I just picture Shuri in 'Black Panther.' She does math all day long, and she's awesome."

Squeee! God bless you, Marvel.

My girls have always been more interested in writing poetry than working out math problems, so I love that they find teen tech whiz Shuri inspiring. But there are a lot of girls out there who are math-, science-, and engineering-minded who have an uphill road ahead of them.

Actress Letitia Wright plays Shuri in "Black Panther." Photo by John Phillips/Getty Images.

Despite years of pushing for gender parity in the workplace, women are still greatly underrepresented in STEM careers.

In 2009, the U.S. Department of Commerce evaluated the status of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) careers and found that even though women represented 48% of the overall workforce, they only represented 24% of STEM careers.

In 2017, they did the same evaluation. That time, they found that even though women represented 47% of the workforce, they only represented — wait for it — 24% of STEM careers.

In other words, the needle has barely moved for women in STEM in recent years.

But that doesn't mean things aren't changing for the next generation. As we're seeing with gun control, children and teens can be the ones to make big waves and change the tide on issues that affect them.

Of course, kids need tools and opportunity to make those waves. Thankfully, there are ways to help the future Shuris of the world get the hands-on STEM experience they need to make dreams a reality. Check out these five cool STEM initiatives by and for girls:

1. Project Upgrade YouTube series

Project Upgrade is a new digital build series — where digital technologies are used to create something — starring popular teen YouTubers the Merrell twins. The series was created to inspire more young women across America to pursue a career in STEM.

On the show, the twins team up with teen female coders, builders, and engineers as well as successful female mentors from across STEM career fields (including NASA, Disney Imagineering, and Google). Together, they design, build, and test a new consumer product in front of a live audience of girls. The series started March 10, 2018, and you can check out a preview on Veronica and Vanessa's YouTube channel:

2. Girls Who Code summer programs

For several years, Girls Who Code has hosted seven-week summer immersion program for 10th- and 11th-grade girls, and now they're offering a new summer program called Campus that consists of two-week intensive summer courses for middle and high school girls who want to learn to program.

Campus will be offered at high schools and colleges across six U.S. cities and will include classes for website design and development, wearable tech and fashion design, and iPhone app development. And as part of the program's commitment to inclusion and diversity, 20% of Campus seats will be held for need-based scholarship students.

3. Black Girls Code

Black Girls Code is "devoted to showing the world that black girls can code and do so much more." Based in San Francisco, the nonprofit recognizes the distinct racial divide in the tech sector — and the opportunities careers in STEM can offer underprivileged communities — so they focus on promoting classes and programs to grow the number of women of color working in technology. They host "hackathons" for girls ages 12 to 17, where participants work in teams to create solutions for social issues in their communities by building apps, games, and tools centered around a specific theme. They also focus on creativity, teamwork, and confidence in the tech world.

4. The "Invent it. Build It." conference

"Invent it. Build it." (IBII) is an annual conference put on by the Society of Women Engineers. It includes programming for girls in sixth grade and up — as well as educators — to spur interest and engagement in STEM activities. Students get to do hands-on engineering projects with experienced mentors while educators learn more about how to help girls prepare for engineering careers. The 2018 IBII conference will be in Minneapolis on Oct. 18.

Check out this video from the 2017 IBII conference to learn more about it:

5. Million Women Mentors

Girls interested in STEM can benefit greatly from experienced mentors offering them encouragement, advice, and inspiration. Million Women Mentors offers just that. The movement supports millions of mentors — both female and male — who help increase the interest and confidence of girls and women in STEM projects and careers. Individuals and organizations create a one- to four-year pledge to mentor a girl or woman in STEM for 20 hours a year.

Show your teens what these mentors said they'd have told their 15-year-old selves:

These are just some of the many great programs out there helping girls build on their math and science knowledge. Girls and young women need opportunities and encouragement to become the STEM giants we know they can be.

Who knows, maybe these kinds of initiatives combined with greater representation can help girls like my daughters decide that they don't hate math after all.

Can you imagine anything more badass than a world filled with Shuris? I can't.

GIF from "Black Panther."

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Truth

Don't test on animals. That's something we can all agree on, right? No one likes to think of defenseless cats, dogs, hamsters, and birds being exposed to a bunch of things that could make them sick (and the animals aren't happy about it, either). It's no wonder so many people and organizations have fought to stop it. But did you ever think that maybe brands are testing products on us too, they're just not telling us they're doing it?

I know, I know, it sounds like a conspiracy theory, but that's exactly what e-cigarette brands like JUUL (which corners the e-cigarette market) are doing in this country right now, and young people are on the frontlines of the fallout. Most people assume that the government would have looked at devices that allow people to inhale unknown chemicals into their lungs BEFORE they hit the market. You would think that someone in the government would have determined that they are safe. But nope, that hasn't happened. And vape companies are fighting to delay the government's ability to evaluate these products.

So no one really knows the long-term health effects of e-cigarette use, not even JUUL's CEO, nor are they informing the public about the potential risks. On top of that, according to the FDA, there's been a 78% increase in e-cigarette usage among high school and middle school-aged children in just the last two years, prompting the U.S. Surgeon General to officially recognize the trend as an epidemic and urge action against it.

These facts have elicited others to take action, as well.

Truth Initiative, the nonprofit best known for dropping the real facts about smoking and vaping since 2000 through its truth campaign. We don't do PSAs. We also need to update so to explain truth – the nonprofit behind the truth youth smoking prevention campaign – you could also say this in a funny way – best known for sharing the facts about smoking and vaping or pull from some old campaigns. Just layer in a description of truth and who the campaign is., is now on a mission to confront e-cigarette brands like JUUL about the lack of care they've taken to inform consumers of the potential adverse side effects of their products. And they're doing it with the help of animal protesters who are tired of seeing humans treated like test subjects.

The March Against JUUL | Tested On Humans | truth www.youtube.com

"No one knows the long-term effects of JUULing so any human who uses one is being used as a lab rat," says, appropriately, Mario the Sewer Rat.

"I will never stop fighting JUUL. Or the mailman," notes Doug the Pug, the Instagram-famous dog star.

Truth, the national counter-marketing campaign for youth smoking prevention, hopes this fuzzy, squeaky, snorty animal movement arms humans with the facts about vaping and inspires them to demand transparency from JUUL and other e-cigarette companies. You can get your own fur babies involved too by sharing photos of them wearing protest gear with the hashtag #DontTestOnHumans. Here's some adorable inspo for you:

The dangerous stuff is already out there, but with knowledge on their side, young people will hopefully make the right choices and fight companies making the wrong ones. If you need more convincing, here are the serious facts.

Over the last decade, 127 e-cigarette-related seizures were reported, which prompted the FDA to launch an official investigation in April 2019. Since then, over 215 cases of a new, severe lung illness have sprung up all over the country, with six deaths to date. While scientists aren't yet sure of the root cause, the majority of victims were young adults who regularly vaped and used e-cigarettes. As such, the CDC has launched an official investigation into the potential link.

Sixteen-year-old Luka Kinard, a former frequent e-cigarette-user, is one of the many teens who experienced severe side effects. "Vaping was my biggest addiction," he told NowThis. "It lasted for about 15 months of my high school career." In 2018, Kinard was hospitalized after having a seizure. He also had severe nausea, chest pains, and difficulty breathing.

After the harrowing experience, he quit vaping, and began speaking out about his experience to help inform others and hopefully inspire them to quit and/or take action. "It shouldn't take having a seizure as a result of nicotine addiction like I had for teens to realize that these companies are taking advantage of what we don't know," Kinard said.

Teens are 16 times more likely to use e-cigarettes than adults, and four times more likely to take up traditional smoking as a result, according to truth, and yet the e-cigarette market remains virtually unregulated and untested. In fact, companies like JUUL continue to block and prevent FDA regulations, investing more than $1 million in lawyers and lobbying efforts in the last quarter alone.

Photo by Lindsay Fox/Pixabay

Consumers have a right to know what they're putting in their bodies. If everyone (and their pets) speaks up, the e-cigarette industry will have to make a change. Young people are already taking action across the country. They're hosting rallies nationwide and on October 9 as part of a National Day of Action, young people are urging their friends and classmates to "Ditch JUUL." Will you join them?

For help with quitting e-cigarettes, visit thetruth.com/quit or text DITCHJUUL to 88709 for free, anonymous resources.

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