Breaking Stereotypes about Females in STEM

Mar 6, 2018

As a new generation of young people prepare for college or enter into the workforce, one thing is becoming apparent, there is a need for an understanding of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) subjects. Historically this has been an area dominated by males but don’t tell that to Tao Tingjia.

Tao is a current senior at Massanutten Military Academy which is located in Woodstock, Virginia. As a freshman, Tao showed an early interest in the STEM program by enrolling in Computer Science I, a Python based introduction to computer science and programming. In her sophomore year, she took Computer Science II, a Java based course that now can be taken for AP credit. However, in the year that she took this class, it was not available to take for AP credit. In her junior year she took Computer Science III, which gives cadets the opportunity to create their own computer science related projects. Now, as a senior, Tao is taking Computer Science IV.

Her academic achievements at MMA are also matched by her AP (Advanced Placement) scores. In Tao’s junior year, last year, she scored a five on the AP Computer Science exam, a perfect score. She also earned a score of four on the AP Calculus (AB) exam and a four on the AP Physics exam as a junior last year. This year, she is preparing for her exams in AP Physics II and AP Calculus (BC).

In addition to her technical skills, Tao also shows a great deal of creativity and ambitiousness. Last year, she was involved in creating various projects such as producing webpages and programming an Arduino board. Not only did she learn HTML and JavaScript, but also PHP and some SQL to add extra functionality.

Her Arduino project was a robot that could navigate through the school and change direction when it approached an obstacle. She assembled most of the hardware and wrote all of the Java code for the Arduino board, including code to scan for objects with a distance sensor mounted on a servo.

Beyond these larger projects, she also has shown a great deal of creativity in projects that she has created to experiment and explore different ideas, including Java programs to analyze the colors of a picture or add vectors using ideas she learned in her Physics class.

Cadet Tao Tingjia is another shining example of our future and the promise that it holds.