Miss California Promotes and Follows a STEM Education

Stanford Grad & Miss America Runner-up: STEM is Huge, there is something for you

In this interview, Stanford grad and Miss California winner, Crystal Lee, talks about how she was hooked into STEM at a young age. She encourages youth to break the mold and become the next STEM movers and shakers.

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Transcript For This Video
Todd Sierer: Hello, my name is Todd Sierer with ENGINEERING.com, and I'm sitting with Crystal Lee. Crystal is the reigning Miss California as well as the first runner-up to the Miss America competition this year.

Crystal, tell me a little bit about your background. I mean, there's the stereotype; you are the reigning Miss California, you're the first runner-up to Miss America. Stereotypically, not expecting someone that is involved in those things to necessarily be involved in STEM. What's the relationship? Tell me why you've gotten involved in it and what your background is.

Crystal Lee: So I grew up in San Francisco, and as a product of the public system, and the public schools that I attended had really great arts programs and really great humanities programs.

My parents, actually, were very into computers. My mother worked in software IT her whole life at the College of Marin, and my father, he loved to go find computer parts off of Craigslist, and then he would put them together in his man-cave, which is really just a corner of our garage.

Todd Sierer: We all have man-caves.

Crystal Lee: [laughs]

Todd Sierer: That's awesome.

Crystal Lee: So heÆd put together these working CPUs and then donate them to my school. I've been raised in this home environment where computers and technology were really a means of entertainment, a means of amusement, but also a huge productivity tool because I learned how to type earlier than most of my classmates, and I got on AAM a lot earlier, and I just loved how much easier it was to press the Delete button than it was to erase something, only to erase it really hard, crack the paper, go find tape, tape the underside of it, turn around and forget what the error was and then be doomed to repeat it.

So technology has always been a huge part of me, and when I found the Miss America pageant, I was about 16 years old when I first competed in the teen program. I had seen that a lot of these contestants wanted to become actresses or they wanted to become entertainers. For instance, your Broadway musical star.

And those ambitions and very valid and I think the world is a much more colorful place because of those industries. But I wanted to focus on something that was really a part of me, and technology, having experienced it in my home, I realized not everybody has that same experience and it is our obligation as millennials to really democratize access to that information.

Not only in the sense that we want computers in every school, but we want to equip our younger generation with the awareness that they can become the next generation's movers and shakers, because I grew up with the big clunky monitors and CPUs. Nowadays, we're seeing screens that are thinner than my thumb, and so if we keep up this rate of innovation, I just think that one day my kids, and you have two twin daughters, it'll be just a better world for them too.

Todd Sierer: What did you study at Stanford? Tell me about your studies then.

Crystal Lee: I was a human biology major, and I've always been interested in the life sciences. That was related to dance in the sense that learning how to move my body through space; I was interested in kinesiology; I was interested in why my body was sore after particularly long workouts. I realized it was this thing called lactic acid buildup and being able to really study that extensively on the microbiological level in college was fairly fascinating.

I really encourage young people to really get into the disciplines that teach you about how our world works; whether it's our bodies, whether it's the technology that sustains our world.

There are so many avenues