GIRLS4STEAM 2nd Annual Design Innovation Challenge Inspires Young Women to Use Technology Creatively
Kent State University Library recently hosted a Girls4Steam hackathon-style event, which brought together more than 80 area high school students. The purpose of the annual event is to inspire young women to be creators of technological innovations—not just consumers of technology—who use technology as a creative tool to build solutions for problems people face in their daily lives. The students were presented with technology training and then were tasked with a design innovation challenge to collaboratively create their own unique product, such as a game, website, app, or circuit project.
With support from the AT&T Inc. Fund at the Cleveland Foundation, the event hosted students from five area high schools: the National Inventors Hall of Fame® Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics High School (Akron Public Schools); Bio-Med Science Academy; Field Local Schools; Rootstown Local Schools; and Springfield Local Schools. Science and technology teachers who came with the students commented on the intensity and productivity of the hackathon. “They were tired but so energetic about the day. I had two girls, who do not do much at school, come up to me after we got back to school to thank me. It was so heartfelt! They want to do it again next year,” said Annette Lang, Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) Integration Coach at the Bio-Med Science Academy.
Staff and departments from across the university helped to put the event together, including Annette Kratcoski, director of the College of Education, Health and Human Services’ Research Center for Educational Technology; LaunchNET and the University Library Multimedia Services.
Hilary Kennedy, manager of the library’s makerspaces along with some of her student workers, presented information and helped the students with Tinkercad, a 3D design program. Ms. Kennedy noted, “The Girls4STEAM hackathon was a great opportunity to engage and enlighten young women. It was fantastic to see a room full of potential future engineers, scientists and innovators! Events such as this show how far we have come in supporting women in STEM and leave me excited for what the future brings.”
In addition, the young women heard from female entrepreneurs who were inspired by design thinking.
Laurie Green, founder of Mrs. Geeky LLC, assisted with the technological aspects of the day and served as a first-hand demonstration of entrepreneurship in action. Ms. Green said she is inspired by the creation and innovative-thinking process.
“Learning to build that first idea, that first concept, that initial prototype, with nothing more than household items is one of the most empowering activities for young women," she said.
By the end of the day the students had produced prototypes for a device to keep Chromebook cords organized, a new style of piano and a shoe that had sensors in the sole that would enable hearing-impaired people to feel the beats of music so, the hearing-impaired could enjoy music like everyone else.
"With a prototype built from cardboard and a few other common items, there is no ceiling, there is no basement and no limitations,” Ms. Green said.
Additionally, participants were invited to join a post-event online community where they could access resources and connect with peers and mentors for ongoing support and coaching. Other technology-related resources and tools are included on the event’s website: https://sites.google.com/kent.edu/girls4steam/home?authuser=0