ASU professor, Science Cheerleaders break stereotypes one cheer at a time

Boasting over 250 team members, the Science Cheerleaders have been dominating the world of professional cheerleaders all across the nation. The team is composed of girls who are pursuing science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers.

Darlene Cavalier, ASU professor and Science Cheerleaders founder, started the team after her blog, the "Science Cheerleader," received attention for her efforts promoting public engagement in science.

It wasn’t long after that when she formed the actual Science Cheerleader team, recruiting STEM cheerleaders across the NFL and NBA teams.

“Each Science Cheerleader brings something unique to the team, and each has her own personal story of how she came to connect with science," said Cavalier. “It's always inspiring to hear their stories and watch them combine their passions to empower others.”

ASU alumna and Science Cheerleader Samantha Sanders said she enjoys how she gets to combine her passion for cheerleading and science into her everyday life.

“I really enjoy being able to playfully challenge the different stereotypes,” Sanders said. “I love our (Science Cheerleaders) message.”

While at ASU, Sanders cheered for the Arizona Cardinals while juggling her work as a student at Barrett, The Honors College and her engineering management coursework. Williams now works as an engineering project manager and oversees complex engineering projects.

“As a woman, you’re a minority in this field, which is why I like being involved with the Science Cheerleaders," Sanders said. "It’s important to show the kids that you can still pursue a STEM career and do sports at the same time.”

Recently, the Science Cheerleaders participated in a Super Bowl event at the Arizona Science Center that included scientists working on cutting-edge helmet technology along with mouth guard concussion sensors. The cheerleaders spent the day at the event sharing their experience in the STEM and cheerleading fields, giving tours of the Arizona Science Center and speaking at a health and fitness talk.

Sanders said she enjoyed participating in the Arizona Science Center events and spreading the Science Cheerleader message.

“Seeing the reaction of over 100 kids when we showed up was just really rewarding,” Sanders said.

Science Cheerleader Summer Wagner, a former Houston Texans cheerleader, currently works as an engineer at NASA - Johnson Space Center in Houston. Wagner said the events she gets to participate in are fun, but it's the connections she makes with the people at the events that make it all worthwhile.

“There are many youth cheerleaders who may not feel that they can have a STEM-related career one day,” Wagner said. “So we use our pompoms and cheers to bridge the gap and give them a connection to girls just like them — cheerleaders — who are also scientists and engineers.”

The Science Cheerleaders have had much success with getting their message out to youth all across America. The Science Cheerleaders have been featured in many publications, which laud their efforts.

Despite all of their recognition, appearances and awards, Cavalier said she finds the most joy when others see the Science Cheerleaders and hear their important message.

“Watching the youth cheerleaders connect with the Science Cheerleaders and helping to get the Science Cheerleaders involved, as researchers, is great,” Cavalier said.

Reach the reporter at sgreene6@asu.edu or follow @thesydneygreene on Twitter.

Like The State Press on Facebook and follow @statepress on Twitter


Get the best of State Press delivered straight to your inbox.