State of the State

Michigan Governor Snyder Honors Leaders –Students for Females in STEM Club at State-of-the-State Address

Lansing, Michigan – Michigan Governor Rick Snyder credited four leaders of the East Lansing High School Students for Females in STEM club with bringing “him the idea” to promote K12 computer science education in Michigan schools. Snyder invited Katie Knox, Taylor Murray, Sophie Steiner, and Samantha White to the state of the state address where he recognized them for turning what he thought was a photo op into a half hour meeting in which they cogently lobbied for expanding access to K12 computer science classes.

From Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s State of the State Address:

We need to do better with computer science education, computer education and cyber security in our schools, K12, there is no time to wait.  Actually there is a recent study that said that 71% of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) jobs of the future will need to have more knowledge about computer coding, computer science and such.  71%.  Think about your schools in your area and think about what they’re teaching.  We have a huge gap and we need to close that gap.  And so I look forward to creating a work group to work with the legislature, the superintendent on coming up with great ideas about how to encourage more of this and you’re going to find us willing to make investments, it’s that important.   

Now the wonderful part of this story is that our young people see this.  So I had a meeting this year and I thought I was just doing a photo opportunity, they didn’t even give me a staff person with me.  And I was to take a picture with four wonderful women from East Lansing High School.  They had achieved something they had started a group called “Students for Females in STEM.”  They walked in my office, I thought I was taking a picture, and they gave me 2 minute elevator pitches from each of the four about how we had to get our act together in Michigan on this issue and they were right and they are with us tonight.   

Students for Females in STEM Club response:

The Students for Females in STEM club appreciates Governor Snyder’s focus on Michigan’s K12 computer science education gap in his address and recognizing our advocacy efforts.  We are pleased that Michigan is part of the national K12 computer science education movement and see this as an important step toward ensuring all MI students get a chance to take computer science and high quality STEM classes especially at the K-12 level.

The SFS Journey … Women Not Going into STEM?  How A Little Passion and Saying “Yes” to Opportunity Can Go a Long Way

How did we get here?  We love our math and science classes and have also been encouraged to pursue them.  We never imagined that there weren’t as many women pursuing these fields as men.   Fortunately, we have never been told we shouldn’t be able to achieve whatever we want in these areas.

So we were shocked to learn that there is a huge disparity of women pursuing these fields in comparison to men.  We read about it and then, working with Allyson Knox of Microsoft in Washington, DC, we set up a trip and met with many 13 professional women in the STEM fields to learn more about this problem.  Some of our findings are on our website.

The interviews yielded obvious themes (1) sometimes girls stop pursuing STEM subjects as early as elementary school not because they can’t but because they think the classes get too boring and they want friends in them so they feel more like they belong in them (2) even though there are many STEM opportunities offered by national organizations like Smithsonian or many local teachers and students just don’t know about them and (3) getting more in-school programs like computer science classes offered is much harder than a school adding an afterschool program.  Armed with this experience and this new understanding – we launched a new club at East Lansing High School called Students for Females in STEM ( and committed to a two-fold mission: advocacy and educational outreach.


  • The Computer Science Education Coalition (CSEC see invited us to share how we felt about East Lansing High School not offering AP computer science with Senator Debbie Stabenow, Senator Patty Murray, and Senior Advisors at the White House.
  • Each year the National Governors Association hosts its summer meeting allowing governors to discuss common and critical policy areas. Last summer NGA organizers worked with and CSEC to ensure more governors understood the importance of expanding access to computer science education at the K12 and provided them with the opportunity to write lines of code.  Along with groups of students from around the country – SFS leaders – helped Governors from IA, KY, AR, VA, MD, and UT complete an Hour of Code.  See for more information about this program.
  • Because Michigan Governor Rick Snyder couldn’t attend the National Governors Association coding program, he invited a small group of SFS members to talk with him in August. Although his staff scheduled only five minutes for us, the governor ended up talking with us for thirty minutes.  During this discussion we outlined tough computer science Michigan facts found on’s website (see   
    • Michigan currently has 14,535 open computing jobs (3.9 times the average demand rate in Michigan).
    • The average salary for a computing occupation in MI is $78,001, which is significantly higher than the average salary in the state ($46,310).
    • Meanwhile Michigan had only 1,612 computer science graduates in 2014; only 15%were female.
    • Last year only 16% of Michigan high schools offered the AP computer science course, only 962 students took the exam, only 22% were female, and 64 of them were minorities.
    • Finally, the College Board reports that if a female high school student takes AP computer science they are 10 times more likely to pursue it in college.
  • We requested three policy changes:  require that all secondary schools offer computer science; define K-12 computer science standards; and allocate funding for rigorous computer science teacher professional learning and course support.
  • Within a month the Governor Snyder sent his senior policy strategist to talk more with us at our school. Further – Governor Snyder
    • set up a meeting for us with the Democratic vice chair of the House Education Committee, Representative Adam Zemke;
    • invited us to attend Governor Snyder’s 2016 North American 5th International Cyber Summit in Detroit; and
    • asked us to give a thirty-minute presentation to the Michigan State Board of Education meeting on December 13. During all of these meetings our policy requests remained the same.
  • We look forward to working with the Governor and education leaders of Michigan will address the lack of access to K12 computer science education in Michigan. 

Educational Outreach

  • During the 2015 and 2016 National Computer Science Education Week, we organized a new Mid-Michigan community-based program called “Coding and Cookies,” during which families completed an Hour of Code together. Hour of Code is an online tutorial and international program that teaches children the fundamentals of computer programming. In 2015, fifty families participated, and this year more than one hundred and twenty families participated.
  • The Club participated in East Lansing public schools’ science nights and STEAM days (which integrates the arts to the STEM disciplines) at elementary and middle schools. There, in addition to demonstrating science experiences and discussing the formal STEM curriculum with teachers, we spoke elementary and middle school girls about sticking with science and math classes even when it seems like an unpopular decision.
  • To kick off the 2016-17 school year we presented to all of the East Lansing Public School teachers about how to design more authentic collaborative and experiential lesson plans especially in science and math during their “welcome back” professional development program.  One of the teachers emailed after our presentation and said that he redesigned a few of his lessons because of our presentation.

Here is a clip of the Governor’s Speech 

Katie Knox, Sophie Steiner, Taylor Murray, Samantha White at the State of the State Address

State Board of Education Presentation

On Tuesday, December 13th, Students for Females in STEM club member and ELHS seniors  Samantha White, Taylor Murray, and Katie Knox gave a presentation to Michigan’s State Board of Education. The presentation was focused on the importance of computer science education in Michigan. Thanks to the support of Governor Rick Snyder, Allyson Knox (ELHS alum and Director of Education Policy and Programs at Microsoft), Representative Sam Singh,  State Board of Education Consultant Stephen Best, Principal Fletcher, and the East Lansing School Board, the presentation was very well-received. All the comments from the Board members were positive, and Students for Females in STEM looks forward to working with the State Board of Education to ensure that all students across Michigan have access to computer science education.

Here is a link to a video of the presentation.


Samantha White and Katie Knox talking with ELHS Principal Coby Fletch, ELPS School Board Member Nell Kuhnmuench, and State Board of Education Consultant Stephen Best

Katie Knox, Samantha White, and Taylor Murray with State Board of Education Member Lupe Ramos-Montigny and other presenters to the State Board of Education.

From the left: Katie Knox, Samantha White, Taylor Murray answering questions from the State Board of Ed

Meeting with Governor Snyder and Follow-Up

On the 31st of August 2016, four representatives from SFS took a trek to meet the Governor of Michigan to give our pitch about providing computer science (CS) education to all Michigan students. Sophie Steiner, Taylor Murray, Samantha White, and Katie Knox sat down with the governor in what he thought would be a great photo-op with some girls interested in STEM. Instead, we presented our mission to grant CS education to all students in Michigan and asked for his support. A nerd himself, he agreed with us about the importance of technology in today’s economy, and he told us about his work in promoting FIRST robotics. While we acknowledged FIRST as a good option for some to learn about coding, we retorted that it was not extremely accessible to low-income, minority students. In the end, he said he would keep our ideas in mind.

After this meeting, the governor arranged for us to meet with a couple of his aides. Among them was Senior Strategist to the Governor, Tyler Sawher. After a quick tour of our school, we sat down to discuss further steps with the Governor’s aides, Dori Leyko EL’s Curriculum Director, and Coby Fletcher, ELHS’s principal. This follow-up meeting was successful in conveying our ideas to more people, and showed us that the Governor was seriously interested in what we had to say.

Photos from the Meeting with the Governor

Left to Right: Katie Knox, Samantha White, Taylor Murray, Sophie Steiner, Allyson Knox

Photos from Meeting with the Governor’s Aides

Left to right: Tyler Sawher, Sophie Steiner, Samantha White, Claire Khouri

Coding and Cookies

On December 4th,  Students for Females in STEM hosted an introductory computer programming event called Coding and Cookies. Aimed to give students a taste of computer science logic and highlight the desire for computer science within the greater Lansing area, Coding and Cookies had over 100 students and parents participate in this event. In addition to the amazing turn out, State Representative Sam Singh attended Coding and Cookies along with ELHS principal Coby Fletcher and members of the East Lansing School Board.

Students ranging from ages 3-18 completed the hour of code on Sunday. Many enjoyed coding so much that they finished several tutorials. Parents we equally successful in completing the hour of code and were given a Biggby gift card for their work.

Beyond the Hour of Code tutorials, students had the opportunity to see their code in action with Ozobots, small programming robots.

In sum, the second annual Coding and Cookies was a extremely successful. Students for Females in STEM would like to thank everyone who participated in this event, and we hope to see even more of you next year.

Here is the news clip of the event.

East Lansing School Board Member Nell Kuhnmench and SFS Founder Samantha White   

Representative Sam Singh Learning to code and with all of SFS    

Glencairn Science Night and Pinecrest Hour of Code

Glencairn Science Night

Continuing our tradition, SFS representatives attended the annual Glencairn Science Night. We brought fun physics toys for elementary students to experiment with and observe the wonders of science. The theme was the “Science of Sound”, so we brought things like Boomwhakers, Thunderdrums, and glasses with different amounts of water in them to explore the properties of sound.

Pinecrest Hour of Code

On December 7th some members of Students for Females in STEM went to a local elementary school to help conduct the Hour of Code after school.

White House Symposium on State Implementation of Computer Science for All

On October 28th, Katie Knox and Samantha White attended the White House Symposium on State Implementation of Computer Science for All. At this symposium, Samantha and Katie learned about some best practices for implementing computer science at the State Level. This symposium also connected Tyler Sawher, Senior Strategy Adviser to Governor Snyder, with other policy aides from other states that have successfully implemented computer science education. Katie and Samantha  gained a lot from this conference and plan to use the information they gathered in the future in helping secure computer science education for all students.


Katie and Samantha walking the halls and outside the EEOB of the White House.

Tyler Sawher (Governor Snyder’s policy Aide, Anne Gavin, Katie Knox, Samantha White, Allyson Knox

The program for the symposium and a picture of Katie with a White House cupcake.

Meeting with Representative Adam Zemke

On October 19th, SFS members Samantha White, Katie Knox, and Sophie Steiner met with Representative Adam Zemke. Representative Zemke is also the Minority Vice-Chair for the House Education Committee. Also present at this meeting was Governor Snyder’s Aide Tyler Sawher. We informed Representative Zemke on the lack of computer science education in Michigan Schools. Then we discussed possible policy measures to implement including having the state pay for the AP Computer Science test for students. We will be meeting with Representative Zemke again in January.

Representative Zemke


Cyber Security Conference

On Oct 17th, Katie, Samantha, and Taylor attended the Cyber Security Conference that they were invited to by Governor Snyder, who gave the keynote speech. We got to attend a couple breakout sessions and talk to some representatives from tech companies like IBM to learn more about the tech industry. Governor Snyder even mentioned us in his keynote, saying that he was extremely impressed by our argument for computer science and was looking for that kind of community involvement. We also got to network with more individuals like Cyndi Millns who is one of the heads of Pickney Cyber Training Institute, and catch up with Governor Snyder again.

Coding and Cookies Information

We live in a world surrounded by technology. And we know that whatever field our students choose to go into as adults, their ability to succeed will increasingly hinge on understanding how technology works. But only a tiny fraction of us are learning computer science, and less students are studying it than a decade ago.

That’s why the East Lansing High School club Students for Females in STEM is joining in on the largest learning event in history: The Hour of Code, during Computer Science Education Week. More than 100 million students worldwide have already tried an Hour of Code.

Our Hour of Code is a statement that the Greater Lansing Area is ready to teach 21st century skills. That is why the club Students for Females in STEM is hosting an introductory coding event called Coding and Cookies on Sunday, December 4th from 1:00-4:00 at East Lansing High School (509 Burcham Dr. East Lansing, MI 48823) in the Library Media Center. This is a free event for students grade 1-12. 

There will be cookies, prizes, and a chance to win a MICROSOFT SURFACE for all who code. Parents will also have a chance to learn more coding and STEM in general.

Please RSVP here. RSVPs are encouraged but not required for this event.

Click here to read about Coding and Cookies last year.

Contact if you have any questions. coding-and-cookies-page-001

Professional Development Presentation

In August, Superintendent Robyne Thompson asked Allyson Knox, our benefactor of SFS, to give a presentation to the teachers of the entire school district for Professional Development. Allyson then created a presentation that incorporated a student perspective to effective teaching. Allyson asked SFS members Samantha White, Katie Knox, Sophie Steiner, and Devin Pascoe to be involved in the presentation. The SFS members talked about everything from teaching lessons and assignments they enjoyed to leadership within SFS and other clubs. The presentation was very well received which created a dialogue between SFS and many teachers and school board members.

From left to right: Allyson Knox, Robyne Thompson, Ian Solhein, Katie Knox, Sophie Steiner, Devin Pascoe, Samantha White