Converting feet to meters is hard as heck, especially if you lack a solid grasp of the metric system. That, and it’s easy to get rusty at math after a long time of not using it.
Dajae Williams, a 26-year old rocket scientist, is as aware of this learning problem as you and me. She has her own method of teaching it, and it slaps.
Williams uses music to teach math and science. Mind you, we’re not talking about toddler ABC-type songs. Make no mistake, Ms. Williams intends to help us learn the quadratic formula and how to convert units. All she needs is a beat hotter than the boiling point of water.YouTube screenshot Source: YouTube screenshot
Dajae’s journey from freshman to NASA scientist wasn’t a clean, planned out one.
In fact, she got her start when her Kirkwood High School teacher mistakenly enrolled her in geometry. Though this was fortunate because now she’s proud of what she does, and is helping other young people find their start in the field too.
Prior to her taking the STEM path, Dajae had been playing basketball most days and even seriously considered a potential professional career path there.
It wasn’t till her mother took note of how she could pick up STEM concepts that she was encouraged to pursue STEM further. That, and the severe lack of representation for black women in STEM played a large part.
Though her high school was in Missouri, Dajae’s current residence and work place is in Los Angeles. Her job title? That would be “Engineer at the NASA Jet propulsion lab”.
At 26, Dajae has accomplished a load of milestones, and not because she got lucky. This was all from hard work and patience.
In fact, she probably had to deal with some hurdles that some of us didn’t have to. Mr. Dajae Williams is an African-American woman, and with that came its natural challenges.
With little representation in the fields she took up, and the constant feeling of alienation from classrooms where neither the teacher nor the students looked like her, Dajae had more on her mind than exams and studying.
She recalls how often it felt like her teachers were never on the same page as her, as far as cultural differences are concerned.
Little things like the difference in their manner of speaking or accents, can make some kids like Dajae feel a bit disconnected. In fact, “traumatic” was one of the words she used to describe some experiences she had.
Though she overcame those hurdles and is now the role model that she wished she had growing up. Her musical teaching practice isn’t new either. She made extensive use of melodic learning to help herself during her exams.YouTube screenshot Source: YouTube screenshot
“If I needed to remember a word, I would sing it in a certain way so that when I’m in a test, I think of that jingle, and boom, I have the answer.”
Little did she know that she’d still be doing this years and years later.
The first time it got her recognition was when she took Soulja Boy’s “Crank Dat”, and put a mathematical spin on it to teach the quadratic formula.YouTube screenshot Source: YouTube screenshot
And now, one of her newest tracks might be the most fire way to learn unit conversion. After all, she does call herself “The dopest NASA engineer you will ever meet”.
“I make it my duty to show students that learning can be cool and that there are successful engineers and scientist that look and think just like them.” – Ms. Williams writes on her website
Representation can go a real long way. Someone who seems like just another scientist in the lab could well be a shining role model to someone else.
Dajae’s STEM music tracks also make handy earworms for many STEM students too. Learning doesn’t have to be the monotonous, boring classroom talks we associate with it. It can be an absolute blast with the right person teaching it.
Why not give one of Dajae’s tracks a listen down below? She worked hard to make it, and a bit of classroom learning never hurt anyone. Do share the article too!
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