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Youth Activism in STEM During Pandemic

Written By: Zhao Gu Gammage

COVID-19 has undoubtedly ravaged the country, leaving forty million unemployed, economies crippled, and millions infected. But it’s led to positive changes too, such as the emergence of STEM activism in young people. Teens Shaun Karakkattu and Karina Popovich have both created new mediums to empower women in STEM.

Shaun Karakkattu and Youthomatic

Reinvented Magazine joins Shaun on Ep. 3 of Youthomatic Podcast

Shaun Karakkattu, a rising senior at BASIS Mesa in Mesa, Arizona, created Youthomatic, a podcast that publicizes youth research and activism in STEM. His first episodes range from researching societal taboo around menstruation in Nepal to the experience of interning at NASA. In his third episode, “STEM Reinvented,” he interviewed members of Reinvented Magazine about their experiences as women in multiple fields in STEM.

Karakkattu started Youthomatic not only because of his love of podcasts but also because he saw a rise in youth leadership in his community in response to the pandemic. He witnessed local students work to support science research and provide local hospitals with medical masks. By creating a podcast, Karakkattu knew he could highlight motivated youth to inspire others to start their own leadership initiatives and pursue their interests.

Youthomatic’s segment about women in STEM spans episodes one to four. The first episode, “Adventures in South Africa & Nepal,” highlights high schooler Sara Kandell’s research surrounding the cultural taboo in South Asia surrounding menstruation. Youthomatic’s second episode, “KEYS to Success in STEM,” focuses on experiences as women in STEM at Arizona State University by following Anissa Ferris and Swapnika Raola’s internship at KEYS (Keep Engaging Youth in Science). Episode Four, “The Life of a High School Researcher,” highlights Erin Clancy, who completed an internship at both KEYS and TGen, a lab that conducts genetic research in Arizona, and Paige Lottman, who won a NASA competition and is president of Plasma Robotics at Red Mountain High School.

Karakkattu hopes to grow his podcast by creating a website, newsletter, and magazine - and attracting listeners from around the country and the globe. Once the podcast gains ground, he wants Youthomatic to serve as a place where people will return to share their experiences. He envisions the podcast becoming a forum where people can share their trials and opportunities, encouraging listeners to learn, improve, and grow. He wants all students, regardless of gender, background, or identity, to be able to envision themselves in STEM.

Karina Popovich, Makers for COVID-19 and More