Science Fiction Exhibits as STEM Gateways
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University of Washington Abstract Science Fiction Exhibits as STEM Gateways Samantha Robie Chair of the Supervisory Committee: Kris Morrissey, Director Museology Women continue to hold less than a quarter of all STEM jobs in the United States, prompting many museums to develop programs and exhibits with the express goal of interesting young girls in scientific fields. At the same time, a number of recent museum exhibits have harnessed the popularity of pop culture and science fiction in order to interest general audiences in STEM subject matter, as well as using the exhibits as springboards to expand or shift mission goals and focus. Because science fiction appears to be successful at raising interest in STEM fields, it may be an effective way to garner the interest of young girls in STEM in particular. This research seeks to describe the ways in which museums are currently using science fiction exhibits to interest young girls in STEM fields and careers. Research focused on four institutions across the country hosting three separate exhibits, and included staff interviews and content analysis of exhibit descriptions, promotional materials, a summative evaluation and supplementary exhibit productions. In some ways, science fiction exhibits do serve young girls, primarily through the inclusion of female role models, staff awareness, and prototype testing to ensure interactives are attractive to girls as well as to boys. However, STEM appears to be underutilized, which may be partly due to a concern within the field that the outcome of targeting a specific gender could be construed as "stereotyping".
- Museology