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Tech-Girl Monthly: March 2014

Celebrating Women: Inspiring Change

March is National Women's History Month and March 8 is the International Women's Day. Both celebrate the achievements of women while "focusing world attention on areas requiring further action." Women in STEM (science, technology, engineering & math) is certainly an area that requires our attention. As Megan Smith, VP at Google says, "we need to know that women have always done these jobs at all different levels, even if they've been written out of the stories." Here are some great resources that tell the story of women in STEM past and present:

Spotlight: Jennifer Whitenack, K-5 Gifted Resource Teacher

Each month we spotlight a woman or girl in tech who inspires us. This month, Jennifer shares her experience of starting a Tech-Girls chapter at her elementary school as well as her own journey from tech consumer to tech creator.

Last year I started an after-school Scratch club for kids in grades 3-5. I noticed pretty quickly that the girls approached coding very differently than the boys did, and when they were just starting out they seemed to be put off by the boys' intense focus on game creation and the atmosphere it created. The girls gradually began to drop out. I decided to see if girls working in a girls-only environment would be more engaged, so I started a girls-only Scratch Lab and a boys-only Scratch Lab that met twice a week during the school day. Both groups had a lot of fun learning from each other, but the change in the girls was remarkable. They began to see computer technology not as a "boy thing," but as a "kid thing." Their confidence grew quickly in the less competitive, all-girl environment, and soon they returned to the after-school club. 

At the start of the second semester this year, I decided that I wanted to build on what I learned about things that cause girls to turn off to technology and STEM by starting an elementary chapter of Tech-Girls for 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade girls at my school. I was concerned at first that I wouldn't get enough girls to sign up, but I got 58 applications for the 15 spots! We meet every Wednesday after school and have so far enjoyed learning to code with Scratch, working with MaKeyMaKey's to create strange and wonderful input devices to run our programs. Coming soon: Squishy Circuits, wearable electronics, and Hummingbird robots! 

Why is it important to get more girls and women interested in technology?
I am very worried about the statistics showing that girls, especially those in middle and high-school, seem to think that technology (and STEM fields in general) are not areas in which they can or should compete with boys. Given the increasingly pervasive nature of technology in everyday life and the needs we as a society will have to develop technology that can help solve increasingly complex problems, we simply cannot afford to have half of our population opting out of those fields. Women and men often approach technology challenges with different types of problem-solving skills, and we need to take advantage of this.

Keep reading

Get Involved

Are you ready to become a mentor or sponsor a Tech-Girls workshop? Can you help us get the word out or cater an event? We are especially looking for volunteers willing to work 2 to 4-hour shifts with the CyberJutsu Girls at our joint exhibit booth at the USA Science & Engineering Festival April 26 & 27. However you would like to get involved, we need you! 

Activities & Events

Live & Local

  • March 13 -  Tech-Girls of all ages meet twice a month at Henley, on the second & fourth Thursdays of the month. Reserve your spot now. (3/13, 3/27, 4/10, 4/24, 5/8 & 5/22)
  • March 15 - Girls' Geek Day will be exploring Games for Change by providing lots of fun, hands-on coding opportunities for girls. Registration required.
  • March 23 - Middle School Girls in Engineering Science Exploration Day at UVA’s engineering school. Registration is first-come, first-serve.
  • March 29 - High School Programming Contest (HSPC) at UVA. Registration required.
  • April 9-13 - Tom Tom Founders Festival. Check out the cool, free happenings at the TomTom Fest including Tech Panels, Fashion Design Challenge, Music, Art, Crafts and more. Schedule of events.
  • April 26 & 27 - USA Science & Engineering Festival (Washington DC). This is a great experience for the whole family - tons of hands-on activities and the opportunity to meet your favorite STEM rock star plus it's all free! Schedule of events.
  • July 14-18 - Soft Circuit Creations for rising 6th - 9th graders. More classes & registration info available at PVCC Summer Career Academies.
  • July 28-Aug 1 - Video Game Design at Light House Studio. 7th thru 12th graders can get their first taste of video game design in this beginner-friendly workshop. Registration required.
  • August 11-15 - Exploring Technology at Light House Studio for ages 8 to 11. Learn about what makes a computer tick & create your own technology. Registration required.

Virtual & Global

  • Ongoing (monthly) - CreateHS is an online high school coding competition with new challenges released every month. Check out this month's challenge.
  • February - April 26 - Technovation Challenge. Middle and high school girls work in teams to develop innovation mobile apps that solve problems in their local communities. Registration required.
  • March 21 (deadline) - Science in Fiction Video Contest. Investigate how science is portrayed in TV, films & games and tell us what science needs to discover to make it really happen. More info.
  • April 11 (deadline) - K-12 JMU Physics Video Contest. Put some STEAM into your science curriculum by giving your students the opportunity to explore and demonstrate their understanding of physics concepts through video. Submission guidelines
  • April 30 (deadline) - House App Challenge for High School StudentsRegistration required.
Are engineers super heroes?
Check out this video & find out.
High Tech Fashion
SciGirls create a one-of-a-kind dress with wearable electronics.
Electric Dough
Create your own squishy circuits with homemade conductive dough.
2014 Tech-Girls, This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License
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