Astra believes the young women today will be those who lead us tomorrow. With that mantra, the Astra STEAM Summit program was developed in the Summer of 2014. In 2016, the Summit will be going into its third year with plans for two Astra S.T.E.A.M. Summits: one in the Seattle area and the other in the San Francisco Bay Area. Every year Astra holds a Summit, the network of young women grows as well as the successes of the women.
One STEAM alumna from the 2014 Inaugural STEAM Summit, Jenny Xu, is currently a freshman at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) pursuing game development. Jenny’s team competed at the Summit’s App Competition, and her team won first place. Learning how to network during the Summit proved to be a valuable skill Jenny learned, “[…] since I’m usually a quieter person and I’m not used to approaching people, especially people that have made it big in the tech industry. This has helped me a lot at MIT because there are so many opportunities and career fairs here and networking is such an important skill to use with the people I see every day.”
At MIT, Jenny continues her passion in game development and technology. She has joined several student organizations including Society of Women Engineers and TechX, a technology-focused student group. Jenny’s interest are to find the intersection of education and gaming, and is currently working with MIT’s Game Lab and the Education Arcade to achieve this goal. It’s hard to imagine that Jenny has found time to develop a game, but she has developed two games this year as, in Jenny’s own words, a “fun side project!” The app called Animatronic Jumpscare Factory, and has already over one million downloads on the Google Play and Apple App Store. Currently, Jenny is working with a new game called Hungry Trash (wwww.jcsoft.com/hungrytrash/play) which teaches elementary/primary school students how to sort trash. As an Entertainment Software Association Leaders on the Fast Track (ESA LOFT) Fellow this Fall, Jenny had the opportunity to present this game at the White House in Washington D.C. to members of the Department of Education. Currently, Jenny is working with Electronic Arts (EA Games) on their NFL Madden Game.
The Astra STEAM program exists for students like Jenny Xu to teach them confidence, skills, and give them access to a network of mentors that will support and encourage the STEAMers to achieve their dreams. The STEAM Summit connected Jenny to fellow game developers and her current mentors. Jenny explained, “One of the most the most important things I learned was the people are willing to talk to you if you are willing to talk to them. For example, I had learned Deborah Todd, Kate Edwards, and Rachel Bernstein would be at the Summit before I had gotten to the Summit. They were huge role models for me. Turns out, they were even more excited to meet me than I was to talk to them, since they were ecstatic to find out that I loved game design and development as much as them. Now, they are almost like my mentors and I sometimes ask them for advice and help in my career!” Jenny’s career goals include making video games that “function not only as entertainment, but as educational and learning resources for anyone, anywhere in the world, to use and enjoy.” Jenny has already made strives to achieve her goal. In the Summer of 2013, Jenny became an entrepreneur when she created her own independent game company JCSoft Inc. (www.jcsoft.com). Jenny publishes all her games under JCSoft Inc. banner with the help of her “loyal beta testers,” her brother and dad.
The Summit is designed for the student STEAMers to explore entrepreneurship and different STEAM careers. Now more than ever, entrepreneurial thinking is beneficial to learn for young leaders to become part of global solutions for business which is increasingly becoming more complex and interconnected. Entrepreneurial thinking gives young leaders the capacity to tackle those complex problems with innovative solutions. If you are interested in becoming a mentor for the 2016 STEAM Summit, please contact Diane McClelland at Dimac@astrawba.org.