A group of young girls lined up across the Phoenix Mercury’s court inside the newly transformed Footprint Center. Standing on the hardwood of the three-time WNBA champions, the children held out their basketballs directly in front of themselves before letting them fall to the ground to witness the direct impact that gravity has on the game of basketball in regards to shooting, dribbling and overall ball movement.
This demonstration was part of the 2022 STEM Clinics presented by Microsoft, a collaborative initiative between the Mercury and Microsoft to host five Junior WNBA clinics to teach youth STEM principles, how they relate to basketball and to integrate Microsoft technologies into the game. The five clinics were broken down into individual categories: science, technology, engineering, math and coding.
“We wanted to partner with a team that had deep interest in using technology to improve the game, and the desire to inspire kids with tech,” Microsoft Director of Strategic Partnerships Amy Sorokas said. “The Phoenix Mercury has a history of using innovative technology with the team. They also care about encouraging girls to see how science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills and career paths can also be part of something they love--like the game of basketball. Working with the Mercury to weave STEM and technology-based activities into their basketball camps for the first time was a perfect fit!”
Mercury rookie Sam Thomas joined the Science focused clinic to assist in guiding the young girls through basketball drills, while Microsoft provided the curriculum. Whether the children ultimately become interested in a STEM career or a basketball career, teaching the importance of living a scientifically literate life in this way allows them to see the real-world impact that science has on sports and everything around them.
“Education is important to me as I recently finished my PhD,” Mercury Director, Global Partnership Solutions Dr. Stephanie Lovingood, PhD said. “The importance of science and gender equality in achieving global sustainability goals cannot be overstated. The pandemic has demonstrated the need of digital capabilities in times of crisis. However, the global health crisis may paradoxically hinder women's advancement in STEM fields. For innovation and long-term, sustainable economic growth, young girls with an interest in STEM must be empowered and inspired to pursue professions in technology. And, as I’ve learned from my own experiences, diverse teams also perform better!”
The participants of the five clinics received a co-branded t-shirt and a swag bag full of additional goodies to help them remember what they learned and how apply it to their everyday lives.