Welcoming All Girls in the Maker Movement: Let's Make it Happen

I experienced two events this week that got me thinking about how we can support girls to reimagine their futures. I heard Dr. Chelsea Clinton speak at the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT) Summit. Chelsea talked about the "imagination challenge" and how it's hard to imagine what you can't see. There are lots of men making news about making technology. If you are a girl what are you likely to think? There might not be a place for you in technology?

I went to the Maker Faire in San Mateo, CA last weekend. I went to see the projects that our Techbridge girls created in their after-school program at Oakland Technical High School. Making for them has been a journey that combined technology, engineering and creativity. They learned to code, worked with tools, practiced teamwork, and persevered through many cycles of the design process. The girls' imaginations led them to an array of projects: a jacket that unzips when it gets too hot, a dress that lights up, and a robot that bobs its head to the beat.

I have been attending this Maker Faire for years. It is amazing to see how popular the event has become, drawing over 100,000 this year. But, I saw little of the ethnic diversity that we celebrate in the San Francisco Bay Area. African-American and Hispanic families were few and far between.

There are organizations working to bring the experience of Making to kids from all backgrounds. Techbridge is participating in the California Tinkering Afterschool Network, a project funded by the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation and the National Science Foundation. This project is a partnership involving the Exploratorium, Discovery Science Center, Community Science Workshops, and Techbridge. Together we are learning how to design, implement, and study the expansion of Making in after-school programs serving youth in economically-marginalized communities. Techbridge is engaging in this project because we see the promise for Making to open doors and expand options for all kids. We are committed to contributing to research and practice to help the Maker movement become more inclusive of girls and underrepresented groups.

I know that the Maker Movement is working to be more inclusive and I challenge its leadership to do even more to include every kid in every community in its programming. I challenge each of us to support not just our own daughters and sons in Making but the girls and boys in all communities.

Linda Kekelis, PhD, is Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director of Techbridge. At Techbridge, Linda and her team are addressing the "imagination challenge" and encouraging girls to discover their inner Maker.

Techbridge empowers girls by inspiring them in science, technology, and engineering. Techbridge's after-school and summer programs provide girls with hands-on projects and career exploration through its curriculum, role models, and field trips. Techbridge has served over 20,000 girls in after-school and summer programs in the San Francisco Bay Area and nationally through partnerships with Girl Scout councils and other girl-serving groups. For more information about Techbridge, visit www.techbridgegirls.org. Please tell us about your experiences with Making. We would like to learn with you.

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