Interview with a DIY Girl: On Web Design and Creative Coding

Last week, we completed Week 7 of our 10-­week Web Design and Creative Coding Program for middle school girls at Vaughn Next Century Learning Center. It's the beginning of coding programs that we plan to offer in 2016 for middle school girls. 

We are teaching HTML and CSS within the context of developing a mobile app idea and creating a website to effectively promote that app. We are also testing our curriculum on Processing, a language for learning how to code within the context of the visual arts. 

Working with this group of middle school girls has been fulfilling on many fronts. It’s exciting to not only hear them speak confidently about what they want their code to do, but also use the correct terminology when doing so. Girls are throwing around “divs”, “selectors”, and “attributes” like it’s 2016. They are practicing code in an environment that encourages failure, collaboration, and new ideas. We can't wait to offer more programs like this.

 

To learn more about the impact on the girls and get feedback, we interviewed, Beatriz, a 7th grader in the program and asked her about her thoughts on learning to code! 

1. What do you think of the creative coding program so far? 

It’s difficult at times ­­remembering the symbols. But it’s also fun! You can make cool stuff and show it to your friends. It’s motivating. 

2. How is it motivating? 

Well, you guys motivate me all the time. When I have a problem, I turn to you. You make me believe I can do anything. 

3. How do you see yourself using code in the future?

I think knowing how to code is a good way to make more money. I can create an app that does anything I want. I think I can also use it as a hobby. 

4. How can we make this program better?

We could take trips in the field. I want to see the things we learn in action and talk to other women about their experiences.

This program was made possible with the generous support from Time Warner Cable's Connect a Million Minds Initiative. We are grateful for this grant that will allow us to teach over 150 middle school girls to code! 

Girls collect air quality data and prototype inventions

In honor of Air Quality Awareness Week, we'd like to share what our girls have been working on as part of our Making for Good: Clean Air project. 

In 2016, DIY Girls is focusing program content around the issue of air quality. DIY Girls serves girls primarily in the Northeast San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, where many of the schools are within a perimeter made up of highly congested freeways. Our founding site, Telfair Avenue Elementary School, is less than 210 feet away from the 118 freeway. 

This year, our girls have researched air quality and its effects on health and learning by empathizing with those affected by health issues caused by poor air quality, like asthma. By doing so, they have come up with their own understanding of the problem and its importance. 

At our after school programs, girls went outside and collected air quality data around their schools using the AirBeam, a palm-sized air quality monitor. They made predictions about which areas of their school had better or worse air quality and then tested those predictions by collecting particulate matter data. Surprisingly, girls found that particulate matter was highest inside the classrooms!

Our ‘Making for Good’ initiative is challenging girls to think about air quality issues in their community by leading them through the design thinking and engineering design process. As a part of this process, girls are empathizing with those that suffer from poor air quality to invent products that might help alleviate their symptoms. A group of girls at one of our sites decided to make a product line of inhalers for children with asthma. Their goal was to disguise the inhaler so that those with asthma can medicate discretely and with style! 

Girls first drew 2D models of their designs, then modeled these designs with clay so that they could imagine what they would look like in 3D. Finally, girls made 3D models of their designs in TinkerCAD, a free online 3D modeling software. These designs will be 3D printed so that girls can refine their prototypes. This is a six week long process that empowers girls to see themselves as designers, challenges them to work despite set backs, and helps them learn something completely new!

This project would not have been possible without the support of So Cal Gas and The California Endowment. We appreciate their support!

DIY Girls wins Lemelson-MIT Excite Award

We're thrilled to announce that DIY Girls has been selected as an Lemelson-MIT Excite Award winner and finalist for a 2016-2017 InvenTeam grant from the Lemelson-MIT Program. As a finalist, DIY Girls will have the opportunity to receive an InvenTeams Grant to be awarded in the Fall.

 

Lemelson-MIT InvenTeams™ are comprised of high school students, educators, and mentors that receive up to $10,000 each to invent technological solutions to real-world problems of their own choosing.

The DIY Girls team will be made up of high school girls from the Northeast San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles and will be led by Director of Programs, Evelyn Gomez, an MIT alumni. As part of the Excite Award, Evelyn will attend EurekaFest, "a multi-day celebration designed to empower a legacy of inventors through activities that inspire youth, honor role models, and encourage creativity and problem-solving," at MIT in June.

We're very proud to be recognized by MIT for our innovative ideas and hope to learn how to better create inventors in our community.

How to Make a Paper Circuit

In our programs we like to get girls started with making by having them make a simple paper circuit. We designed branded cards and now use them in all of our afterschool programs as a starter activity. Once the girls learn this they are able to be creative and make something else like a pop-up card with the same materials. 

By popular demand, we just released a how to video that shows how to make a paper circuit. Our kits are available in our shop and will also be included in our new DIY Girls Club kit

For this activity, you'll need

  • 1 LED
  • 1 CR2032 coin battery
  • copper tape
  • Starter kit card or your own paper

The Berenstain Bears' Computer Trouble: A book review

Hi, I'm Sylvia, Director of Curriculum for DIY Girls. I'm also a graduate student studying library and information science. In order to graduate, I have to complete a portfolio that proves my competency in the field. In doing so, I ran into this essay I wrote about The Bernstain Bears. Listen to the book here.

On The Berenstain Bears’ Computer Trouble by Jan and Mike Berenstain (2010)


    Computer Trouble is a cautionary tale. It opens with, “Computers have their uses – they’re great for work or play. But it’s not a good idea just to stare at them all day.” The first page shows Papa Bear hauling home a computer to help with work. Quickly, the family becomes enraptured by it, and before long, Mama, Brother, and Sister all have their own computers. Papa notices things spiraling out of control – Brother isn’t focused on his schoolwork, Mama is addicted to e-Bear, an online auction site, and Sister is being bullied via Pawbook. He limits computer use to one hour a day, and just like that, all is right with the world: the children play outside during the day, and the family reads together in front of the fireplace at night. The next day, the family goes out...to a movie. The book ends with a list of safety tips for kids – “Never give out private information,” etc.


    Though the Bears’ lesson of moderation is well-intentioned, ultimately this book does a lot more harm than good. Most obvious in this 2010 book is the reinforcement of gender stereotypes – Mama Bear has an online shopping addiction, and it’s “Herb the mailman” who tells Papa, “you’ve got to get this e-Bear thing with Mama under control.” (At this point, one Amazon reviewer notes, “I shut the book and told my daughter ‘the end.’”) Papa is the decision maker of the house. It’s Papa who brings the computer into the house, and Papa who decides to take it away—Mama is just along for the ride. Brother Bear plays soccer; Papa is a carpenter. Meanwhile, Mama shops and knits and Sister worries about boys.


    Another destructive element is the book's demonization of computers and technology. The front cover announces “With Internet Safety Rules,” and though the guidelines themselves are good, the idea that this book helps prepare children for the internet age is all off. Computers in the book largely function as a diversion, an enjoyable evil like candy. Apart from a little bit of work and schoolwork, nothing productive happens with technology; it’s all shopping and games.  Papa encourages the children to go outside and enjoy the traditional joys of childhood – “pick wildflowers, watch clouds...collect rocks, pretend you’re space bears.” No one can argue that those all sound great. But in the assortment of wonderful activities, the book makes a clear value judgment that these are superior ways for children to spend time.


    What about all of the ways in which computers can stimulate childrens’ imaginations? What about the "wildflowers" we pick online, the exciting things we find? Why doesn’t Papa give his children a 3D modeling program so they can design hip cabinets for the family furniture business? Or tell Mama Bear to create her own online store with Etsy and sell her beautiful knit blanket? By reducing computers to “candy,” an enjoyable evil to be consumed with as much self-control as we can stir up, the book risks depriving children of the real benefits that can be had by computers, and reducing them to one more mechanism to consume things – like the movie theater they visit at the end of the book.

Who's doing it right? Check out Linda Luikas' new children's book, Hello Ruby, for an exciting introduction to computers and coding.

What's an Engineer? A Crash Course for Kids

It's National Engineers Week, an annual week-long celebration that highlights how engineers make a difference in the world. At DIY Girls, we're always looking for opportunities to bring engineering to life for kids.

When we recruit girls to our programs, many of them don't know what engineering is. Once they join us and begin to do hands-on engineering projects, we explain to them more about what engineers do. 

This week, we're showing all 90 girls in our afterschool programs this short crash course video that explains what an engineer is. Afterwards we'll ask the girls to relate what they're learning in our program to what engineers do! 

10+ Free Summer STEM Programs for HS Students

10+ Free Summer STEM Programs for High School Students

Summer residential programs held at universities are a great way for high school students to develop their interests, learn what college life is all about and prepare for the transition to college.

In our programs, we aim to provide girls with next steps to continue developing their STEM skills and interests. For high school students, we believe the best experience is to attend a summer program where they will have access to advanced content and will be exposed to something new including living on a college campus.

Many summer STEM programs are free or offer full scholarships for low-income students. We recently made a list of summer programs to handout to high school students in our programs. 

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Some of the programs on our list include:

MITES at MIT - a free six-week science and engineering program for rising HS seniors.

Earthwatch Ignite - a two week experience where students participate on a fully-funded, scientific research expedition alongside scientists and other students in a natural landscape. 

SAMS at Carnegie Mellon -  a rigorous residential summer experience that focuses on creating interest in tech disciplines and building academic and personal skills. 

Download the full list of Free Summer STEM Programs for High School Students

Know of any programs we can add to this list? Leave info in the comments.

2015 Year In Review: Top 12 Tweets

Our best moments via @DIYGirls Top Tweets

We’ve created our very own DIY annual report using tweets from the past year. We selected 12 of our top retweeted and liked tweets.  From photos of our girls in action, to field trips, to live tweets during the Superbowl these tweets capture the essence of our work and activities in 2015.

Our top tweet of the year received 229 retweets and 166 likes!  

 

12. Making for Good

This year we were fortunate to receive a grant from the California Endowment. The goal of the project was for girls to design and build interactive games and exhibits that address community health issues. One of the projects was 'Wheelchair 2.0'. In 2016, our making for good projects will focus on air quality

11. Sony PlayStation Field Trip

As part of our summer camp, we visited Sony Santa Monica where girls got an inside look into how video games are designed. This was one of many field trips we coordinated this year to expose our girls to tech careers in LA. We also visited Disney Interactive, GM Design Center, Warner Bros, Art Center College of Design and USC.

10. DIY Bots workshop

This video of Girl Scouts making bots at our December weekend workshop at Blankspaces in Mid-Wilshire was very popular. We plan to offer more weekend workshops in 2016 all over LA. If you're not in LA, you can still make our favorite projects with our kit!

9. CODE Documentary screening

We're proud to be an active member of a community of organizations working to expose women and girls to coding. When the Code documentary was screened in LA we helped promote it and had an info booth there. 

8. Dancing and electronics

If you follow us on Twitter, you know we love sharing interesting and creative DIY projects. This electronic ballet slippers project was our followers' favorite of 2015. 

7. Classroom Makerspace signs

In the Fall, we created these signs for our classroom makerspaces at elementary schools. Educators have contacted us asking for electronics copies and we're happy to now offer free downloads!

6. The reason our programs start in elementary school

5. Girls making and creating

This year we offered our afterschool program at six LAUSD elementary schools. Thanks to our school partners for allowing us to turn classrooms into pop-up makerspaces.

4. Girls are interested in STEM

We really believe in this statement from Verizon's #InspireHerMind campaign. Even more than just showing girls we offer girls opportunities to do what engineers do. As a result, after participating in our program, 97% of girls are interested in participating in more STEM-related activities.

3. Thank you sponsors

Our Summer Camp Indiegogo campaign raised over $10,000. Thanks to in-kind sponsors that offered perks to our supporters. The God of War pack and the meat paddle from Nick Offerman's Woodshop were popular. 

2. #Likeagirl superbowl commercial

So when did doing something 'Like a Girl' become an insult? The Always #likeagirl commercial aired during the Superbowl and had one of the highest mentions on social media. Of course we joined in and tweeted several photos of our confident girls!

1. Photos of Women Pioneers

Women have always been involved in developing technology. In fact, women mostly dominated software in the early years of computing. We weren't surprised at the reaction this tweet received as it's so great to see photos of these women pioneers and learn more about computing history so we can share with our girls.

 

We're grateful to all of our sponsors for making 2015 an amazing year full of memorable moments! We served nearly 500 girls that are now interested in STEM, confident in their tech skills and excited for more. You can help us have greater impact by making a tax-deductible donation before 2015 ends. 

Registration Open for Winter STEM Camp for Girls in Hollywood

Join DIY Girls for Winter Camp! Girls will participate in a Creative Electronics camp where they will complete challenges that encourage team building and work on hands-on projects that engage them to further explore the fields of computer science and engineering! 

For more details and registration information, please go to http://wintercamp.diygirls.com

If you have questions, please contact Evelyn at evelyn@diygirls.org