Last weekend, I volunteered at the Design Your World – North Texas STEM Conference for Girls. This is the second year running for this conference, which was created to introduce and engage young girls to the STEM (science, technology, engineering & math) fields. I spent last Saturday on campus at SMU working with girls (ages 9-11) and sharing how coding, electronic circuits, and fashion intertwine with our fearless workshop creator/leader, Dr. Kim Knight (@purplekimchi). Girl power!
Initially I joined in the Design Your World fun to document and take notes about the #FashioningCircuits workshop, course, and research — but really how could I resist crafting my very own LED circuit headband with moustaches. REALLY?!?! This workshop introduced girls to the wearable Arduino Lillypad, and how to include this technological hardware in your fashion design.
It was a fun and productive day. I really enjoyed working with the Girl Scout Troupe from Denton (Holla!) who wanted to learn how fashion connects to technology design, historically and in application. Not only did I earn my “Product Designer” badge (YES!), I also learned what these young ladies thought about working with technology, circuits, coding, and more:
After getting to the end product — the blinking LED lights on the headband — all the girls felt a great sense of accomplishment and satisfaction for the day. It was a pretty cool project, after all. For me, I had a few personal takeaways from the workshop experience, and interacting with the participants:
- Sometimes when you learn and try new things — you will not succeed. We all had a number of mistakes, but we learned from them and fixed errors to get to the end product.
- Get a strategy and tip from those around you. Whether it’s how to thread the electric thread chord or stitching, you can learn from all levels.
- These girls were not aware the barriers or even the lower number of females in the STEM fields. That being said, this might be the first time they learned about the fields of computer science, engineering, and more.
- At this age, most girls believe that anything is possible.
- “Girls work better together” (said my group) specifically with regards to collaboration, listening, and helping each other problem-solve.
- My ladies thought that it was “much quieter without boys” and the said boys are more competitive.
- Many of the girls were interested in learning more about computers, coding, circuits, electricity, and how things work in general as a direct result of interacting and designing in this workshop.
- While completing the conference evaluation, my group had to ask a parent what “box to check” for ethnicity. I liked this. It reminded me that institutions and educators put labels on things they don’t need to.
- Keep exploring. Keep learning. Even this workshop schooled this ME… a self-acclaimed creative, smart kid. It reminded me to always keep the challenges coming.
Are you interested in learning more about this cool workshop? Want to connect to Fashion Circuits to learn about technology & design? Check out the Fashioning Circuits course taught by Dr. Knight at UT Dallas, follow @FashionCircuits on Twitter or track on the hashtag #FashioningCircuits for different happenings. I will continue to play with fashioning circuits every now and then to collaborate and contribute to Kim’s upcoming book, Fashioning Makers and Counterpublics: Critical Making and Public Humanities. Stay tuned for more maker and fashionista magic.