Ladies First highlights women and girls who are making the world better for the rest of us.
It’s no secret to us that the future is female: From teen girls putting themselves on the front lines of protests to high schoolers all over standing up against dated and sexist dress codes, young women everywhere are emerging as leaders in equality. Recently, a group of students from a Los Angeles-area high school even invented a portable, solar-powered shelter for the homeless, proving more girls are badly needed in tech and engineering too.
Evelyn Gomez is the Executive Director of DIY Girls, an LA organization working to give young girls in low-income communities access to, and mentorship in, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) programs.
After discovering a funding opportunity through MIT‘s competitive InvenTeam program — which invites teams of high school students to invent tech solutions to real-world problems — Gomez went back to her former calculus teacher at San Fernando high school to assemble a team of 12 students. The group met over the summer of 2016 to brainstorm and to get to work over the next year — meaning a lot of extra hours after school and on the weekends for no school credit. That’s dedication.
After initially tossing around ideas that addressed air pollution or water quality, the girls quickly realized they wanted to invent something that would help their community more directly, Gomez says. The Los Angeles Homeless Services Agency puts the homelessness increase in the San Fernando Valley up 36 percent to 7,094 people last year, and the girls on the InvenTeam say it was an obvious choice to work to assist the homeless.
“Because we come from low-income families ourselves, we can’t give them money,” Daniela Orozco, one of the team members, tells Brit + Co. Her teammate Veronica Gonzalez adds, “We wanted to offer something besides money.”
So, without any prior engineering experience, the girls learned programming, soldering, and many more skills to get their prototypes — which featured lights and plugs — together. Through additional fundraising, they raised the money needed to get to MIT this past June to showcase their invention at EurekaFest. Presenting the project was the culmination of a long year of hard work, but as one of the team members tells us, the experience has made a long-lasting impression.
“One of the biggest lessons I learned while being part of DIY Girls InvenTeam was that I don’t need to have a significant background in engineering or computer science in order to think like an engineer,” team member Maggie tells us. “I personally learned that engineering involves a problem-solving mentality where nothing limits you. The moment I stopped thinking about how I didn’t compare to the other girls and started thinking about how I could help out the team, was when I truly started to grow as an engineer.”
The STEM programs that DIY Girls continues to run for low-income communities rely partially on donations, and every little bit helps, so if you can throw a few dollars toward these amazing young women’s futures, we encourage you to do so here.
Do you think more girls are needed in tech fields? Let us know @BritandCo!
(Photo via @diygirls_inventeam/Instagram)