May 18, 2015 03:11 PM EDT
You have all seen how television portrays those who love science. Almost always they are pasty, pale and soft-bellied nerds who spend long hours alone in front of their computers, and they are almost always male. So, when Disney Junior approached both Google and NASA last year for a new series about a space adventure boy and his smart sister who codes in a spaceship piloted by their mother, everyone was ready to bury those stereotypes once and for all.
Both NASA and Google agreed that if the show was done right, it could not only end those stereotypes but help get girls more interested in the sciences at an early age. After all, in a report in 2014 by Google, the company demonstrated how the media can play a huge impact in girls' decisions to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math.
So the creators of "Miles from Tomorrowland" visited the Google Headquarters in Silicon Valley and NASA's Southern California base to talk to tech and space experts about how to authentically portray the show's Callisto family.
"We want all kids to get interested in science, but we really felt that it was important for girls in particular to see strong female characters," says Sascha Paladino, the show's creator.
Google's reseach showed a direct link between females in science featured in the media and the low rate of girls pursuing science, technology, engineering and math careers.
The percentage of women entering into computer science studies declined from 37 percent in 1984 to 18 percent in 2009. Currently, about 27 percent of all professionals in computer science are women, according to Google. It also said that girls who feel that television portrays programmers negatively or who don't see other students like them taking computer science are much less likely to get into the field.
At NASA, the team from Disney set out to build the character of the mom, Phoebe, who is captain of the spaceship. The character was inspired by astronaut Yvonne D. Cagle, and Disney Junior worked with NASA on astronomy and what it was like to live in space.
At Google, Paladino spent the day with several engineers who homed in on the character Loretta, Miles' smart older sister who uses computer code to solve problems. They said that Loretta shouldn't pine away on her computer. In reality, it's much more social as coders spend a good deal of time working and interacting in person as members of teams to create programs.
As the show begins work on a second season, they are still getting advice from both Google and NASA.
"Code is a mechanism to enhance anything you want to do, and that was a big point to get across in Loretta's character," says Julie Ann Crommett, who leads Google's effort to educate the media on computer science. Selfishly, Google believes its efforts with companies like Disney will help create a bigger labor pool for them in the future.
"We want to inspire really young kids to think about being makers of technology and not just consumers of technology."
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