Girls Who Build
Our solution's stage of development:Early
Girls Who Build is a series of creative and applied engineering curricula for girls. Our topics are on things girls love, like music, and on the problems they want to solve, like climate change. The courses are developed by engineers, tested with local girls, and published online for access everywhere.
Girls Who Build addresses the gender gap in STEM by fixing two major problems: a lack of role models and engineering curricula designed for girls.
In the media, like the TV show Silicon Valley, engineers are traditionally depicted as nerdy white men who are hackers and car enthusiasts. Secondly, existing STEM programs have instruction based curricula, so no problem solving or teamwork is required. The activities are stereotypical and disconnected from applications; for example, building a balloon-powered car for mechanical engineering. Lastly, there is no Girls Who Code equivalent in hardware—coding clubs are more prevalent than hardware programs.
Why our solution will solve the problem:
Our theory of change is to breakdown stereotypes with engineering courses in things girls love. For instance, our next program is in music and 70% of high school choirs are girls. We also feature female keynotes to give girls role models.
Additionally, we address the lack of curricula for girls. According to Girls Scouts, girls prefer team-working and creative problem solving. In our programs, the girls work in pairs on challenges that sometimes fail, so they think outside of the box.
Lastly, our programs are made by engineers so we teach advanced and multi-disciplinary topics like signal processing.
Our target outcomes:
The impact of my solution is inspiring girls to pursue a career in engineering. Educators, parents, and students will all benefit from free, online Girls Who Build courses developed by engineers. The courses will be published online on MIT Opencourseware. The programs will also be deployed through established organizations like Girl Scouts who need new courses in mechanical and electrical engineering. With their expansive programs of educators and students, they can help us scale.
My target outcomes are: 5 new courses, 5000 visits on each course site, and a partnership with a major nonprofit like Girl Scouts.
The populations we will benefit initially:
The regions we will benefit initially:
The technologies we employ:
Why our solution is unique:
Girls Who Build curricula is uniquely made by engineers. Consider one of the largest girls engineering programs, Girls Who Code, where the founder started in politics and law.
Our approach is to make curricula that has never existed before, that is both application-focused and advanced. For instance, we taught image processing in our camera workshop. The Girls Who Build courses also show how engineering is collaborative, multi-disciplinary, and creative. We require girls to work in teams and problem solve. Lastly, we choose topics that are not stereotypical but on things girls use and see everyday, like music and sports.
Why our solution is human-centered:
Each year, Girls Who Build courses are developed and tested with local high school girls in Massachusetts. The curricula is created by engineering volunteers from local companies like MIT Lincoln Laboratory. The girls who attend come from a range of high schools and backgrounds. About half of our students have exposure to computer science, and fewer have experience with hardware. During the workshop, we get direct feedback from students and educators—what we did well and what can be improved—and most importantly, if we inspired the girls to pursue engineering as a career.
How people will access our solution:
After each course is developed and tested at MIT with local high school girls, we publish the curriculum on MIT Opencourseware. The free, online course includes videos, instructions, and advice for running parts of the Girls Who Build curriculum. Larger organizations like Society of Engineers who need new engineering programs, can also scale our curriculum with their established infrastructure. They have expansive programs with educators and students as well as funding to provide hardware to underserved communities.
Technology-Readiness Level:6-8 (Demonstration)
How we will sustain our team financially:
First, as a PhD student at MIT I will leverage the available resources on campus for funding a non-profit. To grow, I will seek corporate sponsorship, by involving local companies in the development of the workshops. For example, to teach computer aided design, Solidworks provided free software to the Girls Who Build wearables workshop. I am also sponsored by MIT Lincoln Laboratory who has provided space, volunteers, materials, and funding. By being based in Cambridge, there is enormous opportunity to partner with local companies and MIT.
MIT Opencourseware has also partnered with us in publishing our curriculums so they can be accessible everywhere. In addition, Girls Who Build leadership will present the curricula at major education conferences like the national Society of Women Engineers to publicize the novel and free engineering courses. In the future, we will partner with larger organizations like Girl Scouts to scale our curricula.
The factors limiting our success:
One of the hardest challenges of doing a hardware workshop with students is finding the funding to pay for materials. We plan to work with corporate donations, like how Solidworks provided free software to our workshop, to overcome this barrier.
The other challenge will be convincing an established non-profit like Girl Scouts to incorporate a new curriculum. Unlike Boy Scouts, Girls Scouts do not have a proposal process for new badges.
How long we have been working on our solution:3 years
How long it will take to develop a pilot:We have already developed a pilot.
How long it will take to scale beyond our pilot:We have already scaled beyond pilot.
Our expected annual budget:
How much of our budget we've secured to date:
Our promotional materials:
We're looking for partners in these fields:
Why we're applying to Solve:
I am applying to Solve to scale Girls Who Build courses. Solve can connect me to the right partners, like engineering companies--Amazon, Google, and Adafruit-- to develop new curriculum and provide hardware, and non-profits like Girl Scouts to incorporate our courses into a national program.
I will also use Solve for funding and legal advice in starting and sustaining a non-profit.
Our current partners:
My partners include MIT Lincoln Laboratory, MIT Opencourseware, Solidworks, and Society of Women Engineers.