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Girls get animated about science

New web series encourages tween girls to pursue STEM; Liat Shapiro, daughter of US ambassador to Israel, lends her voice

Renee Ghert-Zand is a reporter and feature writer for The Times of Israel.

A scene from the first episode of the animated web series 'Purple and Nine.' (Courtesy of Gangly Sister)
A scene from the first episode of the animated web series 'Purple and Nine.' (Courtesy of Gangly Sister)

There are different ways to tackle the challenge of getting more girls to love STEM, or science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Groups in the United States have sought celebrity endorsements by movie stars like Natalie Portman to assure girls it is okay to be a geek.

Israeli organizations are running special programs in Israeli schools for girls who major in these subjects. And now, a new Tel Aviv start-up called Gangly Sister is getting animated about the fact that more girls need to be encouraged to pursue their interest in science and technology.

The company’s founders, Rebecca Rachmany and Miriam Lottner, are producing a cartoon web series showing tween girls that every-day “wonks and nerds” can be superheroes, too.

The English-language series, titled, “Purple and Nine,” debuted on January 30, and the plan is to release one new 5-minute episode every month. The first episode, which had the title characters (two 10-year-old girls with the quirky names Purple and Nine) trying to make chess pieces with a 3-D printer, has racked up some 38,000 views so far. Production of future episodes, as well as translations into Spanish and Chinese, depend on fundraising and an Indiegogo campaign.

“We had the idea for this project 10 years ago, created a pilot and pitched it in Hollywood,” Rachmany, a content writer for hi-tech companies, tells The Times of Israel. “Nothing happened with it then, but now we realized we could do it ourselves, since we could distribute it directly through YouTube.”

Rachmany and Lottner were bothered that when they looked around, they saw far more male tech entrepreneurs than female ones. “If those bozos can raise 5 million dollars for that startup idea, why can’t we?” they asked. They decided to found their own start-up and get more girls interested in technology at the same time.

Maya Rachmany (left) voices Purple, and Liat Shapiro voices Nine in 'Purple and Nine.' (courtesy of Gangly Sister)
Maya Rachmany (left) voices Purple, and Liat Shapiro voices Nine in ‘Purple and Nine.’ (courtesy of Gangly Sister)

“There are equal opportunities for women in the army and the university,” Rachmany notes. “The key is for girls to have ambition and the belief that they can do it. You have to create that at an early age. All girls are smart and they shouldn’t self-exclude when it comes to STEM.”

Liat Shapiro, 13, voices Nine. She agrees that Israeli schools need to push girls to stick with math and science as they get older.

“I’ve personally been encouraged in the STEM subjects, but more so in America than here in Israel. That’s been a bit disappointing,” shares Shapiro, who is the daughter of Dan Shapiro, the United States ambassador to Israel.

Rachmany’s 15-year-old daughter Maya, who provides the voice for Purple, also reports a drop-off in the number of girls pursuing STEM in her high school.

“We picked Liat to play Nine because of her voice, and she’s turned out to be perfect for this project,” says Rachmany. “She’s upbeat, has a global view, and wants to help people.”

Both girls have experience with acting, but working on an animated web series has been a new experience for them.

“Voice acting is a challenge. You have to put your face in to your voice,” Shapiro explains.

Shapiro says she loves playing Nine. “She’s very impulsive, which is something I am not. But I admire that in her.”

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