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June 24, 2019

Tech Savvy event shows girls and women the fun — as well as career possibilities — offered by technology.

By Joshua Eyaru

It’s a Saturday morning and to Michelle Lange, it’s yet another opportunity to experience what she loves doing: “Listening to the sound of girls enjoying STEM sessions.”

 

Our Creating IT Futures blogger Michelle Lange attend a Tech Savvy event this spring sponsored by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) and hosted a TechGirlz booth there. Tech Savvy is a one-day science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) conference for middle-school girls and their guardians. Usually held on a college campus, the event introduces under-represented girls to STEM and demystifies some of the college admissions and funding process for parents.

 

The day includes leadership workshops, STEM programs, keynote speeches and breakout sessions, all led by volunteers with help from experienced STEM and campus professionals.

 

At this event in Chicago, girls are scattered throughout Lewis University’s science building to learn about cybersecurity, drones and the physics of simple circuits. In other rooms, activities included learning wiring diagrams and making battery-powered cars.

 

Making binary bracelets

 

The students and their parents learned that solving problems with technology is not only a viable career path for girls, but lots of fun, too.

 

“The character had to make a choice, and if you choose something, something happened,” one excited learner said, explaining to her peers what she just experienced.

 

The girl’s excitement was palpable and made Lange smile.

 

“I like her bringing in the ‘If Then’ logic in a casual conversation — that’s what TechGirlz is about, making technology so familiar it’s like a second language,” Lange said.

 

Walking into a TechGirlz classroom, it’s impressive to see the confidence teen girls exude about technology. They boldly explain code, just like a salesperson would explain a product to you.

 

One girl said, “My dad wanted to build video games and I was like, maybe if I learn something, I can help him.”

 

Especially for teen girls — who, according to academic research, start “opting out” of STEM fields both inside and outside school — seeing themselves as future problem solvers is important, and encourages them to comtinuing pursuing STEM programming.

 

Through its 20K By 2020 initiative, TechGirlz is spending more than a million dollars to help get more girls interested in technology. So far, the organization has hit 15,000.

 

When girls and women pursue technology, they can accomplish more.

 

Take, for example, Kelly, who found herself in technology out of curiosity. Starting in a data-entry position, Kelly became curious about how the system was making calculations. She asked to see the codes. From there, her boss offered to train her as a programmer and today she is creating tech projects like Tech Savvy to help other women embrace their potential.

 

Learn more about Tech Savvy, TechGirlz, AAUW and Creating IT Futures’ work in STEM programming by listening to the podcast.

 

Joshua Eyaru, who is from Uganda, is a fellow with Atlas Corps assigned to Creating IT Futures. He holds a master’s degree in business administration from Kampala International University and is interested in non-governmental organizations management. (His undergraduate degree is in information technology.) In 2014, Eyaru co-founded Youth for Reconciliation and Leadership, a community-based organization promoting peace and digital literacy in rural Serere, Uganda. There, he serves as the head of communications and partnerships, and is responsible for acquiring local and international partners. He also works part-time as a digital skills trainer, and has helped more than 5,000 young people acquire skills as part of the Google Digital Skills for Africa project. Previously, he worked as the IT support staff and Google suite administrator at Kampala International University.