May is a month where the United States celebrates Asian American, Pacific Islander, and as of 2021, Native Hawaiian heritage. The diversity of culture, language, and experience that the AANHPI community brings to our country cannot be overstated. This is particularly true in the areas of STEAM. Over the years, many AANHPI heroes have changed our world for the better through their outstanding contributions to science, technology, engineering, art, and math. And this year, my colleagues and I were able to do something particularly exciting.

Regular readers know that I love history, and that I’ve written before about AANHPI heroes who made a positive impact on our society. This year, as part of Blue Apple’s free Timely Topics lessons for teachers, our team created an activity featuring a STEAM Dream Team. The STEAM Dream Team features five AANHPI innovators who have helped create a better world through their inventions, accomplishments, and advocacy. While some of them may be household names, others may have gone overlooked in the pages of history. So, in honor of AANHPI Heritage Month, take a moment to read about these five extraordinary individuals:

Dr. David Ho: Dr. David Ho is a Taiwanese American physician and virologist who has made several scientific contributions to the understanding and treatment of HIV. For millennials and Gen Z’s, it’s hard to articulate the fear HIV instilled in the public during the 1980’s. Ho’s work vastly expanded our understanding of the virus and helped develop drugs that have saved countless lives. For his service, Ho was named TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year in 1996.

Narinder Kapany: An Indian American physicist hailed as one of the seven unsung heroes of the 20th century, Kapany is probably best known as the creator of fiber optics. Fiber optics are an essential component of most computers and technology. Without his contribution to science, our world would never have seen things like high-speed internet! Narinder Kapany was also an artist and dedicated much of his life to serving as a patron of the arts.

Maya Lin: Maya Lin is an artist and architect who rose to prominence after designing the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC. Lin created her design while still a student at Yale university and beat out over 1,400 other entries to win the selection. Today, the monument is hailed as one of the greatest memorial designs in the United States, while Lin has gone on to design numerous other public works, including sites in Alabama and Michigan.

Nainoa Thompson: Nainoa Thompson is a Native Hawaiian navigator and the president of the Polynesian Voyaging Society. Born in Honolulu, Thompson helped revive the Polynesian art of navigation, which is practiced without the aid of western instruments. Thompson was arguably the first person to practice the art in almost 500 years but proved his ability when he crossed the Pacific from New Zealand to Tahiti—and back—in a canoe!

Eugenie Clark: Eugenie Clark was a marine biologist more popularly known as “The Shark Lady,” and for good reason. Clark was a pioneer in the field of ichthyology and helped educate the world on the true nature of sharks. Her work has helped protect many marine ecosystems, while also leading to greater knowledge of scuba diving and its use in studying our oceans. Her contributions were so notable that several fish are named after her (such as the Callogobius clarki).

If you enjoyed learning more about these extraordinary individuals or are looking for other ways to celebrate AANHPI Heritage Month, be sure to check out Blue Apple’s latest Timely Topic. Our American history cannot be written without the incredible contributions of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders. So, let’s use this month to highlight these historic heroes who have helped make our country a better place!

*Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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