ChickTech Middle School 2015

From July 27th through 31st, ChickTech opened the doors of Epicodus where they hosted their first ever middle school camp for girls. The 4-year-old non-profit, which typically provides workshops to High School girls, welcomed seventeen 11 to 14-year-olds into the world of soft circuits, programming, hardware, and the larger technical community in the Portland area.

Before delving into the curriculum, the girls shared why they thought girl exclusive camps were necessary. They shared that they knew tech was a male dominated field often unfriendly towards women. Janice elaborated that tech is in almost everything, and by increasing the number of girls in tech they will have an equal say in how tech is developed, helping shape the focus of future tech.

During introductions, the girls ranged from assertively stating that they participated in sports and were interested in tech to a quietly stated “I don’t know.”

A daily yoga break served to remind them that they have a body that needs tending to.

Days one and two of the camp, they were given an introduction to wearable electronics, experimented with a hands-on introduction to circuits via Squishy Circuits before exploring the design possibilities for their tote bags and the code necessary to create the desired effects. Then they learned about conductive thread and soldering then crafted bags reflecting their love of various things such as Dr. Who, sunsets over water, sports, lava lamps, space, Christmas, roasting marshmallows over the campfire, Portland’s cityscape at night.

Projects

Tote bag- sewing, soldering, programming using Arduino IDE, used the speaker board and LED boards designed by MakersBox.

Greeting Card- programming in Java

Solar Lantern- soldering, reading wiring diagram, track soldering

Field Trips

AppNexus– “This place is heaven.”

PGE on energy day

Volunteers

The father of young girls, ages 7 and 8, was seeking ways to feed their interest in science and tech. During the camp, he met two participants who excitedly shared their experiences with the First LEGO League, and encouraged him to introduce his daughters to it.

A woman interested in the crossover between technology and fashion. Predominantly focusing on nail design, we discussed ways to add electronic components to her designs and incorporate the use of custom jewelry to house the power supply.

A young woman, who chose to pursue an engineering degree following her experiences with ChickTech, while in high school.

Looking to the future

Girls expressed an interest to expand the camp to 2 weeks, taking three to four days per project. This would allow them to make more complicated projects that were functional for use in daily life, such as the tote bag. An example they gave was to start with learning how to make a simple tote bag then tackle both the hardware and programming modifications needed to make them increasingly intricate.

Some girls would rather see the camp focus on teaching them a variety of programming languages.

Related Links:
  •  “Women outnumber men in college graduation rates but in 2014, women made up just a quarter of the tech industry. The percentage of women studying computer science has dropped to 12% from 37% a decade ago.” (source)
  • Pipeline vs Environment and what you can do about it, link
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