With more than 240 million copies sold over the last decade, Minecraft is among the bestselling games of all time. And more than just mobs and creating your own virtual playground, it’s imparting valuable lessons, especially for younger generations.

"It's a way that a whole generation — actually more than one generation now — has learned computer-aided design and realized that you can design worlds in this game but you can redesign the world in which we live in, also," said Liberty Science Center CEO Paul Hoffman.

The team at Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, N.J., is hoping that by drawing in fans of the game with its Minecraft: The Exhibition, it can also bring in new fans to the STEM fields. It’s especially hoping it can draw in young women to pick up careers in these categories.

"I think the open-endedness of the game appeals to girls," Hoffman said. "It appeals to boys too. But I think that the fact that it taps different kinds of creativity, artistic creativity, problem-solving creativity."

STEM careers made up 7 percent of the U.S. workforce in 2019, according to the U.S. census, and are among the highest-paying jobs. But even though women make up 48 percent of all employees, they only account for 27 percent of STEM workers. With women struggling to return to the workforce amid the pandemic, some are concerned the gap could widen.

"We don't want to continue income disparity between males and females," Hoffman said.
In addition to the Minecraft exhibition, Liberty is highlighting achievements made by both sexes in its Genius Awards and other displays. It also brings in working female STEM professionals to show girls what is possible.

"There are those ladies who have invested their time, energy, effort, and broken down those walls, and they need to be celebrated and known for what they've done," Liberty Science Center director of STEM education Rosa Catala-Steidle said “The second part is translating that to the girls so that they can see these role models."

Catala-Steidel believes many young girls are into STEM careers when they are younger, but somewhere along the way, they get discouraged. As a child, Catala-Steidel wanted to be a veterinarian. But after going through college, she realized her passion was still in the sciences, but toward early childhood education. She now works with Liberty’s program – as well as her own daughter – to encourage that STEM spark. On top of that, young women need to be shown how to overcome obstacles that they will face if they decide to pursue these jobs.

"It's very important for me to show her my passion," she explained. "But it's also very important for me to show her the failures because if I give up, then she has a reason to give up because that's the modeling that I am doing. But if I persist, if I find different pathways, then that's a modeling technique of how to try to solve problems or get around barriers."

Catala-Steidel believes it’s important to show different opportunities, like working with animals for those with a nurturing nature or showing how cars work for analytical minds.

"For me, it's very important for my daughter to not necessarily follow in my footsteps, but to be encouraged when she does decide to tinker with STEM facets," she added.