August 27, 2019

Hard Work, Meet the DIY Girls: The story of an all-girl engineering team

Women creating a tent
📸 | Mashable

“We’re just like, ‘how do we do this, how do we do this.'”

The mission of DIY Girls is a really good one: “to increase girls’ interest and success in technology, engineering and making through innovative educational experiences and mentor relationships.”

Now in their 7th year of operation, the Los Angeles-based nonprofit serves 650 girls in elementary, middle, and high school.

RECRUITING THE TEAM

As reported by Mashable’s Brittany Levine Beckman, when Evelyn Gomez, the executive director of DIY Girls, had the idea to apply for the Lemelson-MIT Student Prize (a program that provides grants for promising young inventors around the country), she looked to her former high school for recruits. 

With help from Evelyn’s former calculus teacher at San Fernando High School, she recruited 12 girls to invent and build a project that would directly help their community. 

And though most of the girls didn’t know each other before being recruited, they quickly banded together to discuss and ideate what would become their goal: a portable, solar-powered tent for the homeless in their community, a population that increased 36% in the last year. As team member Daniela Orozco explained, “Because we come from low-income families ourselves, we can’t give them money.” 

WINNING THE GRANT, BUILDING THE TENT

With the direction in place, they embarked on a year-long journey to make it a reality, which was made possible by their winning a $10,000 grand from Lemelson-MIT. And while the group didn’t have prior experience with hands-on engineering work, they resolved to get it done. 

Through teamwork, trial and error, and how-to videos and resources found on YouTube and Google, they learned to sew, solder, code, and 3D-print, and came up with their own hashtag along the way: #wegetitdone.

The result? Two prototypes (one of which was rendered unusable after a litany of quality control tests that resulted in it being stomped, torn, and drenched in water) that included button-powered lights, two USB ports, a micro-USB port, cell phone charger and a sanitizing UVC light on a countdown timer.

THE IMPORTANCE OF STEM EDUCATION

Their story is inspiring and provides even more evidence as to the importance of hands-on STEM education, which is severely lacking for girls in low-income communities. With women making up “just 29% of the science and engineering workforce and only 6% of female working scientists and engineers Hispanic or Latina,” it’s up to us to ensure students have access to the classes and resources that will prepare them for the high-tech jobs of the future. 

For the XQ schools committed to rethinking high school, that preparation takes shape in the form of community partnerships that put STEM/STEAM education front and center, providing an “interdisciplinary learning model where students are able to apply content knowledge as well as key skills.” By committing to both challenge-based design thinking and working for education equity for all students, we can foster a generation of learners capable of succeeding in any field and profession, even those that don’t yet exist.

Edmund Sandoval

Contributing Writer

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