Getting Girls Started with Making
No competitions, 3D printers or wi-fi necessary
This piece is part of a series highlighting the work and stories of Makers across the U.S in the run up to National Week of Making, June 17–23, 2016
Five years ago when I started DIY Girls, I envisioned a community for girls driven by an interest in making. I was inspired by the maker movement. The movement was making equipment and resources that were formerly only available in engineering labs more accessible and I wanted to teach girls to use and create with them. I was excited.
Then reality hit. I started in the Los Angeles community I grew up in and I quickly ran into what I thought were barriers of working in an under-resourced public school. The classroom space where I was going to run the program for girls didn’t have wi-fi, there were no computers and I didn’t have enough money to buy the equipment I thought would make this a real maker program. People also thought I would prepare the girls to compete in expensive engineering and robotics competitions. That couldn’t happen.
I had little resources but I gathered what I did have, borrowed tools, bought low cost and surplus electronics and got girls started with making. Girls took apart old electronics, used tools and wood to make games and learned to create basic electronic circuits to make creative projects. We showcased their projects to parents, teachers and community members. Girls were proud to share their creations with others and gained confidence to continue making and developing skills.
What I quickly learned from the girls that have participated in DIY Girls is that they want an opportunity to make creative things with their hands. Girls come in to our program with interests such as art, fashion and gaming. They want to incorporate these interests to projects while learning new skills. All you need in a classroom for this to happen is a table, chairs and low cost materials. No competitions, 3D printers or wi-fi necessary.
My favorite stories from our girls are those that show the impact low-cost and accessible making has had on them. It makes me believe that educators everywhere can really do this regardless of their budget. Below are two stories that girls shared about their experiences with making in our programs that illustrate this.
Using Tools I Was Never Allowed to Use
Blanca, High School Student
“As a little girl my parents always told me that building things and using tools were things only men can do. Now I know they’re wrong.”
Through DIY Girls, I was given the opportunity to work with tools I was never allowed to work with before. I used a saw for the first time and it was really fun to see how my friends and I were trying something new.
It took us about three weeks to build our project. The project that we decided to pursue was to build a photo booth in the shape of a giant camera. We wanted to use it at a Winter Formal event that our school was hosting. A group of us sawed and drilled the wood to make the box. Throughout this entire process, I had to learn to manage my time in order to keep up with my school work. It also taught me that girls can do anything they want and that tools are not only for men.
I’m proud to say that I now know how to use tools. It’s really an amazing feeling to be building things. As a little girl my parents always told me that building things and using tools were things only men can do. Now I know they’re wrong.
Changing the World with My Creations
Karimar, 5th grade student
My love for making arts and crafts started at age 6. I started by making accessories for my dolls such as jewelry, clothes and shoes. I also learned to make dogs out of yarn. It is so much fun! I can spend hours making arts and crafts.
DIY Girls opened my eyes to a whole new world. Ms. Evelyn (my DIY Girls mentor) taught me to how to design my very own game using a battery, wires and a buzzer. She has also taught me to create a motor art machine and friendship bracelets that light up. Ms. Evelyn motivates me with her words, “I want you to change the world with your creations.” That is exactly what I plan on doing!
One day I hope to work for NASA. Being part of DIY Girls is leading me on my path to success.
Luz Rivas is the Founder of DIYgirls, an Engineer and STEM/ MakerEd Educator.