October 9, 2023
Women are underrepresented in STEM, particularly those with intersectional identities, such as a woman who is also a person of color. This gap widens in engineering. The Caterpillar Foundation and our partners recognize the importance of engaging girls in STEM and engineering at a young age to work toward a more inclusive future. One partner committed to this work is Junior Achievement Worldwide affiliate Prestasi Junior Indonesia, specifically their Girls Exploring STEM (GExS) program. GExS has already helped 350 young women on Batam Island attend vocational schools to pursue their STEM interests through experiential learning. Partnering with Polytechnic Batam University and the local government, Prestasi Junior Indonesia hosted a STEM Innovation Bootcamp where girls learned necessary technical skills, met influential women in the field and competed with projects.
“The GExS program ignited a spark within and empowered me to discover a passion for game development…chase my dreams, and advocate for other women in STEM,” says Nazwaqika Dyah Arega Ardi, GExS STEM Innovation Bootcamp winner. “I believe we can redefine the industry and build a future where women are encouraged, celebrated and valued for their STEM contributions.”
Nazwaqika believed her career aspirations were unattainable when she started GExS. However, this opportunity immersed her in STEM, particularly coding, 3D design with AR/VR technology, and different careers she could work toward. She recognized her passion for STEM and love of game development, especially in creating immersive virtual experiences. Driven to positively impact the world around her, she designed a 3D game called “Concern,” which raised awareness about mental illness, encouraging users to cultivate empathy and understanding for themselves and others. This project beat out other STEM ideas to win the STEM Innovation Bootcamp, which opened Nazwaqika’s eyes to the potential impact of her work in the field.
Following her experiences with Prestasi Junior Indonesia, Nazwaqika was accepted as an animation student at Batam State Polytechnic University, where she refined her skills, expanded her knowledge, and further pursued her career in game development. Nazwaqika also realized the importance of sharing what she learned and empowering others. Now, she teaches her junior peers about 3D design.
Nazwaqika is particularly thankful for a safe and encouraging place to hone her skills as she saw the stark gender disparities that persist within STEM, leading her to become an advocate of breaking down societal barriers, challenging stereotypes and inspiring more women to embrace the vast opportunities that the STEM disciplines offer.
“Nazwaqika’s story is heartfelt and inspiring; as a fellow computer science engineer by trade, her passion resonated with me,” says Asha Varghese, Caterpillar Foundation’s President. “I’m so proud of our work with Prestasi Junior Indonesia to encourage more girls to join STEM disciplines, and we look forward to continuing this important work.”