When we aren’t conceiving and creating digital solutions for the world’s biggest brands, building mind-blowing projects or developing mad Carpal Tunnel from hashtagging #werethebest (life is hard), we like to give back via some totally-not-court-mandated community service.
In this case, we were promoting a cause very close to our hearts and promoting female participation in STEM (or, what we prefer to call STEAM—because you can’t forget art) through a month of killer in-studio workshops with the Girl Scouts of Central Texas (GSCTX). During these sessions, 17 Girl Scouts between 4th and 8th grade learned some coding, electric engineering, design and inventive problem-solving by working with a team of Chaotic Moon creative technologists and designers.
Let’s just say we were (Caramel) deLited by the opportunity.
We kicked off the first Saturday with some simple electrical engineering, and the Girl Scouts got started by combining LED bulbs, a breadboard, wires and a battery to build a custom string of lights based on their own drawing. Building (literally) on the first weekend, the following Saturday the girls used basic coding (total oxymoron, we know) to custom-program their light array to change colors and sequence using Arduino microcontrollers.
(This is the point where they officially became more advanced than 90% of the population….who are probably googling “Arduino microcontroller” as we speak.)
We continued with the project the next weekend, but this time we switched gears and focused on design, and the girls got the chance to sketch and design simple cases to hold the electronics they’d built previously and then utilize 3D printing to assemble their final product. Finally, we did some serious brainstorming during the final session, when we encouraged the participants to imagine and diagram potential problems they’d like to solve. We then explored innovative ways to add other sensors and electrical components to their light array, expanding this simple gadget into a handy little device that actually solves one of those problems.
Basically, they had the opportunity to experience the same process we go through with our clients: determining problems and building solutions. And, well, it was a successful program that benefited everyone: the Girl Scouts, Chaotic Moon and—on a larger scale—tech companies, who, no doubt, will be clamoring to hire these girls in about a decade.
“It’s in the tech community’s best interest to provide girls who have a natural interest in technology with the knowledge, support, and tools needed to grow a new generation of women in tech,” said Chaotic Moon Interaction Designer Sara Wells, who spearheaded the workshop series. “Our program was intended to do just that—foster their interest, teach them some basics, and inspire them to tinker further and never stop creating!”
In the end, the Girl Scouts left the workshop with a new set of skills, a sweet badge and, of course, totally magical memories that will last a lifetime. Meanwhile, we got the gratification of giving back, encouraging STEM participation and educating some amazing future engineers.
“Working with the Girls Scouts was a real treat,” said CM Creative Technologist Philippe Moore. “Their inquisitiveness, ingenuity, and personalities were infectious.”
(Plus, we got cookies. Lots and lots of cookies.)