2017 Winner: ASTech Special Award
Young Science Ambassador Leads by Example
Ambassadors for science and technology have a special energy for encouraging the next generation of innovators and there is no better way to inspire young people to pursue science and technology than by leading by example. Amongst the inspirational ambassadors for the promotion of science in Alberta, Sophia Fairweather is letting her actions speak louder than words. The difference is, Sophia is only nine-years-old.
Through the multiple science and technology products she has launched out of her company, StartupBySophia.com, this young lady embodies the idea that it’s never too early to pursue your passion for science.
“I just like solving problems so that I can fix them,” says Sophia. “It’s really fun.”
Becoming an entrepreneur
Based in Edmonton, Sophia’s products are designed around each of the separate tenets of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Sophia takes a holistic approach to her startups and has a product for each of the letters in STEM.
She explains that her engineering product, FunCro, uses microbarb engineering to allow a customer to easily secure their phone to a surface such as the dashboard of a car for easy hands-free use. Another of Sophia’s products, Windshield Band-aid, uses chemistry to clearly seal cracks in windshields to reduce visual obstructions while driving.
Much of Sophia’s drive to promote science to young people, especially young women, comes from her own experiences meeting a vast number of people in the science and technology community and finding their reactions to be positive and encouraging.
“It’s cool seeing how people are like, ‘Oh wow! She’s doing this so that means I can do it too,” she says.
The encouragement Sophia has received has served to motivate her to spread her message further. In some instances, young students may not be given the encouragement to pursue their passion for STEM which flies against a critical need for up-and-coming innovators to propel the province, the nation and the world forward. For Sophia, being an example of what is possible shows others that engaging in science can be fun and rewarding.
One of the ways Sophia encourages young women to pursue STEM is through her community involvement and impacting policy by advising to the UN, EU, and Canadian governments. She attends conferences and youth groups throughout the province to speak to young people and share her experiences in science and engineering. Sophia encourages young people by removing some of the stigma surrounding the field by demonstrating what she has accomplished and showing how fun solving problems, creating products and running a business can be.
Sophia believes peer-to-peer mentorship is important because it allows her to mentor someone she already has a connection to, either through school or through the relatability of young people mentoring young people. Sophia adds that she is striving to open the door for all girls and young people to pursue their own passion for STEM. In her experience, she found there are many more boys engaging in STEM than girls and she hopes that her involvement in the science community shows other girls there are rewarding opportunities not exclusive to boys.
In such a short amount of time, Sophia has had the opportunity to meet with industry leaders, Ministers, Premiers, CEOs and other mentors. She has been nominated for and successful at obtaining recognition for her work as a science ambassador by TEC Edmonton Kid VenturePrize, the Manning Innovation Award Great Kids Alberta Award and most recently Forbes Top 30 Under 30.
Moving forward, Sophia wants to continue her work as a leader and mentor and is embracing every opportunity to promote STEM that pops up. She says it seems like every month something new is happening and she wants to be present to speak, engage and inspire.