Emily Calandrelli: Embrace Your Passion in Engineering

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In this Season 3 finale episode of the Create the Future podcast we speak to Emily Calandrelli, an MIT-engineer turned Emmy-nominated TV host and acclaimed author. Listen as we discuss the origins of her passion for engineering, reflect on the importance of representation, and learn why she’s dedicated to making STEM fun and accessible to kids—particularly young girls. We hear how her internship at NASA contributed to knowledge of water on Mars, explore why it’s important to never count yourself out, and discover how she’s using her newfound TikTok platform to spotlight important policy issues.

We’ll be back in early 2023 with Season 4.

Episode highlights

  • “I try to promote the fact that if you study engineering, that is a sure-fire way to make sure that you're going to have a really good job at the end of it.”
  • “My experience in undergrad definitely inspired me to try to inspire more girls to pursue engineering. Because I think when you are walking into a room where the vast majority of people do not look like you, you assume that you have walked into the wrong room. And while there are fewer women in engineering classes, there are also fewer girls in robotics classes, there are fewer girls on science teams. And so you need to start at a much earlier age to try to show that representation. It's not that women and girls aren't inspired to go into science, there's just so many barriers along the way, starting at a very young age, that prevent them from either seeing themselves in those careers, or once they're there, there's often a lot of challenges that they experience that make them decide to leave at that point. So there are a lot of things to address to help solve that problem, one of which is representation […] and so that's part of the work that I want to do, that I've been doing through my TV shows and my books, is to provide that extra representation for girls in STEM."
  • “Because I didn't have a path laid out for me to follow. I didn't know exactly what I needed to do to be successful in this field. But because I didn't have a path for success, I also didn't have like a roadmap for failure either. So I had the ability to be fearless in that way I could try new things, I could try a bunch of challenging things. Because if I failed, who cares?”
  • “You don't you don't want to count yourself out before anybody else can because you're just you're shooting yourself in the foot.”
  • “I love doing outreach […] I always volunteered to be in charge of it, because I've always loved talking to young students and kids about science and engineering. I find it to be a really unique challenge to be able to explain things in a way that somebody without the proper background could understand.”
  • On sharing STEM with children: “You have to find analogies and you have to really employ storytelling. You have to figure out, ‘what do I expect my audience to know and how can I explain this in a way that not only explains what's happening, but explains why it's important?’.”
  • On being nine months pregnant while filming ‘Emily’s WonderLab’: “It was really nice to be able to provide that representation for little kids who are watching, I had a lot of families say that, especially their little girls would watch and be like, ‘she's a mommy and a scientist!’.”
  • “Growing up, I think I was, especially when I was younger. I wanted to be perfect at everything. And because of that, I didn't want to try things that were hard for fear of failing.”
  • “The third book in the Ada Lace series was selected to go to space, it was launched to the International Space Station with the Story-time from Space Programme. It was the very first chapter book read in full on the ISS through this programme. I went to the launch and was able to watch something that I wrote be put on a rocket and launched to space to be read aloud by an astronaut […] It was such a cool milestone moment for me.”

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