Fashioning the Future With: Mia Shaw

Image/Mia Shaw

Image/Mia Shaw

Enchanting edamame! We have education expert Mia Shaw on the blog today! Mia is a Science + Maker Educator who has worked with Teach for America and Techbridge Girls. Mia is currently a PhD student at the University of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of Education.  She also has her master's in education from the University of Nevada and her bachelor's in human biology from Stanford. Mia's research includes biomaking (and work with a super cool biology-centric maker lab!), computer science, and project-based learning (PBL).

Not only is Mia an amazing educator, she's also a talented artist. She draws caricatures, portraits, comics and more. Her art is incredibly observant, and she captures her subjects in such a fun and unique way. We love how multitalented Mia is and how she shows us you can have very different passions and be totally successful at all of them!

We think that Mia's commitment to teaching  — and also empowering —  kids  through education and STEM is off-the-charts amazing and a dedication that should be celebrated! So, naturally, we were thrilled to ask Mia all about what drives her as an educator, what kind of work she did with UPenn’s bioMAKERlab, what she enjoys most about working with young people, and all about her awesome artwork. Meet Science + Maker Educator Mia Shaw!  

When did you know you were a scientist?

I think I identified as a scientist in some capacity when I was in elementary school. I loved playing with K’Nex, chemistry sets, and trying to figure out how things worked. I knew I loved science, but I don’t think I used the word “scientist.”  

When did you know you were an artist? 

Oh, I knew I loved making art when I was as young as 4. I would get lost drawing cartoons, making sculptures out of Play-Doh or cardboard (big Calvin and Hobbes fan), or doodling on Microsoft Paint.

What does being a Science + Maker Educator mean to you personally?

Being a Science + Maker Educator means equipping young people with the skills to not only understand the world we live in but have the confidence and desire to design our own worlds in ways that serve us better.  

Image/Mia Shaw

Image/Mia Shaw

We love your art! What do you enjoy most about running Black Ink Caricatures?

Thank you! I am actually considering disbanding the name “Black Ink Caricatures” and just drawing caricatures under my own name. But I have enjoyed having control about who/where I draw portraits and meeting some interesting people.

Speaking of... your portfolio of portraits and caricatures is really awesome; what do you enjoy most about capturing the essence of individuals?

Thank you, y’all are making me blush. It’s fun connecting with people in a way that allows me to figure out what makes that person them in a short period of time. I’ve had moments where forgetting to put smile lines or a particular facial expression completely loses that person’s essence. 

When did you know you wanted to go into education?

Despite always volunteering as a tutor or mentor, I actually stumbled into education. My original plan was to pursue medicine, so after graduating from Stanford, I taught for two years with Teach For America Las Vegas and planned to apply to medical school. However, I realized that I didn’t actually want to be a physician but wanted to work in spaces that supported positive youth development, particularly for Black and Brown youth who have been historically and systemically marginalized. STE(A)M education felt like the natural fit.

Image/Mia Shaw

Image/Mia Shaw

What do you love most about working with young people as an educator?

I feel as though young people are some of the most honest, unique people who possess so much potential to change this world for the better. I feel as though the older we become, society attempts to pigeon-hole us in to certain ideals, paths, and mindsets for its own self-preservation, and young people tend to naturally not see things in those prescribed ways.

What draws you to project-based learning specifically?

I appreciate that project-based learning gives young people more choices for pursuing what they want to learn and how they want to display what they’ve learned. There are more options than just writing a paper for which they can draw upon their unique skills or interests.

Can you talk a little bit about your current research as a doctoral student at UPenn?

I work in the lab of Dr. Yasmin Kafai, and our research is pretty varied. At the core, we explore ways to integrate making, design, and creative expression into K-12 learning activities, particularly in computer science and biology. Within those areas, I am interested in supporting student voice, critical identity development, and students restorying dominant STEM narratives by reimagining alternative STEM futures.

Your work with wearables/electronic textiles sounds so cool; can you tell us more about it? 

It’s pretty fun stuff! Before I started the program, our lab co-developed with other researchers and educators an entire e-textiles unit, which allowed high school students to design personally-meaningful, interest-driven projects combining coding, crafting, and circuitry. For example, students could take clothing or stuffed animals and sew into them mini-computers, LED lights, and touch sensors that can be programmed. You can learn more about it at http://www.exploringcs.org/e-textiles.

Image/Mia Shaw

Image/Mia Shaw

Can you talk a little bit about your work with UPenn’s bioMAKERlab?

With the bioMAKERlab project, we’ve facilitated synthetic biology workshops where high school students genetically-transform yeast to produce beta-carotene (vitamin A) then bake cake products using that yeast. During the lab, students design their own silicone-based molds using shapes/objects of their choosing, as well as develop their own cake recipes. We also engage students in discussions about the ethics and socio-scientific issues surrounding such products and their impacts on humans, nonhumans, and the environment. Given the increasing prevalence of synthetic biology products in our society (e.g. apples that no longer brown or clothing made from bacteria-based synthetic fibers), it’s pretty cool and interesting engaging young people in such scientific practices and conversations.

Image/Mia Shaw

Image/Mia Shaw

What are some of your hobbies you enjoy in your free time?

What free time? Just kidding! On my down time, I enjoy listening to podcasts and music, playing pool, game nights, travelling, attending concerts, and watching Netflix/Hulu.

Who (modern day or historical) inspires you? 

I’m inspired by individuals who live authentically, passionately, vulnerably, and for others. Maya Angelou and Kendrick Lamar are two creatives I am inspired by.

Image/Mia Shaw

Image/Mia Shaw

Do you have any favorite fictional educator or STEM characters in books/movies/other art forms?

Hmm good question. I don’t know if this counts, but I was always a fan of Dr. Miranda Bailey on Grey’s Anatomy. Not only was she one of the smartest people on the show, but her strength reminded me a lot of my mother. Also, I don’t remember watching A LOT of The Magic School Bus, but I think my teaching style resembles Ms. Frizzle’s, so there is probably some subconscious admiration there.

If you were a superhero, what would your go-to wearable tech device be?

Ooh y’all have all the creative questions! I would probably possess some sort of wearable speaker that would knock villains back by the sonic waves. 

Where can people find you online?

I can be found on my website at www.miasshaw.com and on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/mia-shaw-82365264 . I’m trying to get better at Twitter (@MiaSShaw) but it’s a slippery slope.