It's the THIRD YEAR of our all-girls STEAM Club at CMSD's Orchard STEM School, and this year we're joined by guest artist-scientist from the 19th century: ADA LOVELACE. Today, she is sometimes called the "the first computer scientist," or "the Enchantress of Numbers," but during her life, Lovelace was most commonly credited as simply A.A.L. -- the genderless initials she wrote under to keep her identity a secret.
In the midst of the ongoing contemporary educational movement to put the "A(rts)" into "S(cience) T(echnology) E(ngineering) M(ath)," the spirit of our club at Orchard School is about providing the creative space to explore this "STEAM" intersection with imagination and joy, as an intersection that has already and always existed. And as Maelstrom Collaborative Arts continues to champion professional artistic work at the borders of previously defined disciplines, our work at Orchard STEM School does the same.
It's monstrously difficult to tap into the prevailing headspace of the pre-computing age of the 19th century. But we know that Ada Lovelace's work was incredible not just because the odds were against her as a woman in science (though she did have access to top-notch, private education and various other privileges/issues that contributed to a warped sense of self, including being the daughter of the galavanting poet Lord Byron and a controlling mother who banned poetry from her studies...), but because her work imagined and began to articulate the potential of a machine that could be a partner for humans, one that could go beyond mathematical calculation to create images, play music, access information, enhance communication, and change the course of human history. I write this message on a laptop that helps me with project planning, deep research, and instantaneous communication... but like Ada and her collaborators (and the girls at Orchard) I know full well that it's not the machine itself that allows humans to achieve deep thought, create meaningful experiences, or push us to challenge the limits of what we previously thought were possible.
The literacy and capacity to wield technology of any kind brings with it a certain power and responsibility, as does tapping into your own creative expression. And while I could go on about the historical and present issues of misuse of power in the form of pay gaps, under-representation, and blatant racial, ethnic, and gender discrimination, in the tech industry in particular, the time we spend with the girls of the Orchard STEAM Club is about them. And these girls are accessing this power because they are naturally curious, passionate, and bringing their best selves to their work. We are proud to create, invent, learn, teach, and explore a 'poetical science' with them each day at Orchard.
Lauren Joy Fraley
Maelstrom Collaborative Arts Connectivity Director
and lead teaching artist at Orchard