One way to inspire youth to study science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) is to provide role models who have succeeded in these fields. Students can be motivated by learning about scientists who overcame adversity, technology leaders who beat the odds, engineers who overcame obstacles, and mathematicians who persevered despite hardship. In addition to these famous role models, a new initiative in mathematics is recognizing youth who can serve as role models to their peers.
The World Science Scholars (WSS) program was established to nurture mathematical talent in exceptional youth from around the world. Announced in April 2018, WSS aims to show these scholars how to use their talent and change the world for the better. Representing the best in mathematics, only 45 students from around the world were selected in the first group.
High school sophomores and juniors are selected to WSS through a variety of pathways. One way involves completing an online application form and submitting recommendations from a parent/guardian and a teacher/mentor. Potential applicants are also sourced from worldwide accredited talent and enrichment programs and accredited and internationally recognized math and science competitions.
Additionally, students can be nominated to WSS by one of these recruiting partners: Math for America, Duke University Talent Identification Program, Canada/USA Mathcamp, Davidson Academy of Nevada, Advantage Testing Foundation Math Prize for Girls, and Society for Science & the Public.
A member of the World Science Festival network can also nominate students. The network is made up of past participants of the World Science Festival, an annual gathering of some of the most renowned figures in science and the arts. A sampling of past participants in the festival includes athletes, such as former NBA player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar; actors, including Alan Alda, Mayim Bialik, and Ellen Burstyn; and Nobel Laureates, such as David Baltimore, Günter Blobel, David Gross, and Frank Wilczek.
WSS participants begin their involvement by attending the World Science Festival along with a parent or guardian. Following the festival, they engage in a self-paced online learning curriculum of 1-3 hours per week. The university-level learning material is meant to challenge students and engage them at their fullest potential. Through engaging online resources and lectures by leading scholars, students are encouraged to develop their critical thinking, creative problem solving, and independent learning skills.
Courses include Algorithm Analysis and Design, Digital Signal Processes, Essentials of Game Theory, and Quantum Reality.
World Science Scholars are able to participate in a group project. They propose group projects, a select few of which are chosen by a panel of experts for mentorship by a leading scholar and a teaching fellow. The selected projects must propose a way to use applied mathematics to solve a world problem. Completed projects should result in a final product such as a research paper, an academic poster, or a multimedia report that will be shared at the following year’s World Science Festival.
Students who participate in WSS can expect to hone research, presentation, and communication skills that will last them a lifetime. Additionally, they will become members of an alumni network that will lead to mentoring relationships, friendships, professional collaborations, and future involvement with the World Science Festival and other mathematics and science events and communities. Hopefully, such opportunities will enable these student leaders to become role models for their peers and future generations of mathematicians to come.