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Tech-Girl Monthly: July 2014

Growing Tech Talent
There are a couple of great new initiatives out there working to get women and girls engaged with STEM, especially technology. Google just launched Made with Code, a resource that can connect girls to projects, mentors, makers and events. Chelsea Clinton recently hosted the STEM to Success No Ceilings Conversation featuring Kari Byron, MythBusters co-host,  Debbie Sterling, GoldieBlox founder and Danielle Feinberg, Director of Photography at Pixar. It is well worth a listen for aspiring role models, mentors & girls in tech. The UK celebrated National Women in Engineering Day on June 23. Yet, there are still headlines like this that appear every week - "Number of women entering IT continues to decline".

So are these new initiatives doomed to failure? I don't think so. We do need to recognize that when we are talking gender diversity in tech, we are dealing with cultural issues that encompass gender bias, stereotypes and a lack of role models. So I think Made with Code, No Ceilings and other female-focused initiatives are needed to raise awareness about the gender gap and spark girl's interest in tech, but we also need grassroots efforts to build the community and resources needed to support local girls and women as they traverse the STEM pipeline. There is no silver bullet to address the issue of gender equity and diversity in tech. What it requires is a combination of long-term effort, implementing creative, not business-as-usual ideas and the building of strong partnerships and collaborations across the pipeline. That is our mission at Tech-Girls.

One of those thinking outside the box ideas is the Tech-Girls Project: Growing Tech Talent. A glaring omission in many resources for learning to code is helping students see how the skills translate to addressing real-world problems and finding the pathways available to real-world opportunities. In addition, female role models and mentors are often missing, so that girls don’t see themselves in these roles. Geared toward middle and high school students, the Tech-Girls Project mobile app and website will fill in these missing pieces and be the glue that brings together the coding movements, educational pathways and real-world job opportunities. From a coding tutorial, students can explore related job opportunities & find role models and mentors. From a field of study the student is interested in, they can explore how technology fits in and access tutorials that give them a taste of what it’s like to work with that technology. Let us know what you think and how you'd like to get involved!

Spotlight: Selena Feng, GREAT (GiRls Excited About Technology) Program Leader


Each month we spotlight a woman or girl in tech who inspires us. This month we're proud to highlight a local teen who has received national accolades. Selena was one of 35 high school women recognized last year by the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) for her aspirations in computing. This year she was awarded a grant from the NCWIT AspireIT Middle School Outreach Program. She'll be using this grant to start GREAT (GiRls Excited About Technology), an after-school tech program at Jouett Middle School in the fall.

How do you work with technology today?
I am on my school’s FTC robotics team, and I am the lead programmer. I also do research projects, often using them as science fair projects. In addition, I occasionally dabble with websites.

What drives your interest in technology?
Technology is a huge realm of largely undiscovered surprises. Yes, humans have made much progress in the past, but there are still so many things that can be accomplished. Technology also has an immense power to improve living conditions of both impoverished and comparatively well-to-do families.

What do you remember about your first coding experience?
I had the classic “Hello World” first coding experience in Java about three years ago. I remember typing in the print statement, wondering what on earth “System.out.println” meant, and laughed when I saw the words appear on my computer screen. I became interested in how the initial text that I had typed turned into a message on the screen, and have been pursuing studies in the field ever since.

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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? However you would like to get involved, we need you! 

Field Notes: A Visit to Tinkersmiths

I recently sat down with Brian Williford, founder of Tinkersmiths, to find out what he's been up to building the only completely free maker space in the country, right here in Charlottesville. The mission of Tinkersmiths is to disseminate information that is in alignment with tomorrow's world and job opportunities, provide pathways and channels for exploration and prototyping at extremely low cost and getting a broad variety of engineering, mechanical and science backgrounds together to create.

Tinkersmiths 1 is work in progress located in the McIntire Plaza. The location is not yet open for drop in, but there are still lots of other ways for you to check it out. Monday nights provide a great opportunity to experience the maker culture in action. On Sunday, activities are more open-ended and kid-friendly. Brian is always looking for folks interested in hosting workshops. Grab your space for an upcoming event on the Central Virginia's Maker Meetup page

While Brian says that this is one of the most organic experiments he's ever embarked on and he doesn't really have an end goal in mind, there are certainly big plans in motion. The recently announced Tinkersmiths 2 will be a much larger space, capable of housing a wider variety and larger equipment as Tinkersmiths collaborates with CATEC to create a Maker Space on campus. Tech-Girls is definitely looking forward to hosting workshops via Tinkersmiths in the not too distant future.

Activities & Events

Live & Local

  • June 16-August 15 - PVCC Summer Career Academies. Lots of tech-related academies for 3rd thru 9th graders. Registration info available at PVCC Summer Career Academies.
  • July 7-24 - CoderDojo Summer Academy. The summer offerings will include separate morning and afternoon sessions during the weeks of July 7-10, July 14-17, and July 21-24. More info.
  • July 8 - Blinking Bling: Light-Up Jewelry with TechKim. Grades 6-12 at Scottsville Library. Required registration begins on Tuesday, June 24.
  • July 12 - TECHNE Workshop. All about DIY electronics, instrument building and improvisation. For girls 12 and up from noon to 3pm. Registration required.
  • July 12 - Paper Roller Coaster Challenge. Ages 10-17 at Central Library, 2-4pm. Required registration begins June 20. Call 434.979.7151 x4 to sign up.
  • July 21 - CoderDojo Girls: The Maker Party with TechKim. We'll be making cards, sound boards, game controllers, instruments, animations and so much more! Registration required.
  • July 22 - Monkey Rescue Challenge. Ages 10-14 at Central Library, 3-4pm. Registration required by calling 434.979.7151 x3.
  • July 23 - Brush Bots. Grades 6-12 at Central Library, 2-3:30 pm. Required registration begins July 1. Call 434.979.7151 x4 to sign up.
  • July 25 - Blinking Bling: Light-Up Jewelry with TechKim. Grades 6-12 at Central Library. Required registration begins on Friday, July 11. Call 434.979.7151 x4 to sign up.
  • July 28-Aug 1 - Video Game Design with TechKim 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 5 & 12 - Hack Jam 101: Teen Tech Time. Grades 6-12 at Central Library. Required registration begins Tuesday, July 22. Call 434.979.7151 x4 to sign up.
  • August 11-15 - Exploring Technology with TechKim 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.
  • Ongoing - Made to Code for classes & workshops geared toward girls.
  • July 7-August 15 - Maker Camp. A free, online summer camp for building, tinkering & exploring. Sign up for camp.
  • July 15-September 15 - Maker Party, Mozilla's global campaign to teach the web. Find or create an event near you!
PBS Science Matters highlights Hot Shots & Hot Jobs
Check out tech role models, projects & events at Made to Code
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2014 Tech-Girls, This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License
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