learn Winner / 2021

Sparking Girls’ Interest in STEM

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Grants Challenge by DIY Girls

DIY Girls provides hands-on STEM coding and electronics programs for girls of color in the Northeast San Fernando Valley that are designed to spark their interest in STEM fields and careers as well as support their self-confidence, curiosity and persistence. We do what we do in order to change the way girls perceive STEM careers. We believe that creating with tech builds the confidence needed to make anything possible. We want our DIY Girls to apply the technical skills they learn to projects they love so they know the future is theirs to make.


In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • San Fernando Valley

What is the problem that you are seeking to address?

As tech products have become ubiquitous, whether the apps in our smartphones, the systems self-driving cars or the programs making advances in healthcare, and well-paying careers in STEM fields have multiplied, women – especially women of color – have not benefited equitably from this exponential growth. Women represent only 28% of overall employed scientists and engineers in the United States, and just 2% are Latinas. There is significant opportunity to right this unbalance as the U.S. expects to have 3.5 million vacancies in STEM jobs by 2025 and demand for workers is expected to grow faster than the overall labor market. And we know when to do so. This inequality begins early in the education pipeline and the greatest disparities are among girls of color. Nationally, only 15% of girls between 4th-8th grade demonstrate, or even express, interest in STEM. Solving this problem acts as a form of economic mobility, providing a direct path to personal growth and long-term prosperity.

Describe the project, program, or initiative that this grant will support to address the problem identified.

Our hands-on and real-world STEM, coding and making programs are designed and proven to engage 5th- through 8th-grade girls. DIY Girls is the only organization providing a continuum of STEM curriculum exclusively to girls of color in the Northeast San Fernando Valley, and by introducing girls to STEM early, we are able to dramatically alter the trajectory of their education. Our two core programs are: Creative Electronics, an intensive 10-week after-school program for 5th-grade girls held at partnering elementary school sites. This program will engage 210 girls, sparking curiosity and exploration with technology by providing experiences that promote the development of technical skills, expression of creativity and confidence in their abilities. Instructors meet with participants for 2-hour sessions once per week in on-site classrooms. HustleNCode, which is tailored to develop students’ interest in coding and computer science. We will partner with Urban TXT to implement HustleNCode, which has proven successful due to its simple and straight-forward presentation and foundation. While learning to build personal websites, middle school girls explore themes like college and career as they learn how to code. This highly engaging 10-week curriculum will be provided to 144 girls, who will meet with instructors for 2 hours per week. If COVID protocols require, we can adjust to distance learning as we have since Spring 2020, as detailed below.

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative (expanding and continuing ongoing, successful work)

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

11
Direct impact
354
Indirect impact

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

Our vision for success is best illustrated by 4 girls from our first program at Telfair Elementary School in 2012. Lori, April, Marisol, and Maritza all developed lasting interest in STEM and the skills and knowledge to pursue their dreams. Participants as well in our high school Invent Girls program, they graduated in 2020. Lori attends UC Riverside, majoring in Environmental Engineering. April is a Mechanical Engineering major at CSUN. Marisol attends Brown University, majoring in Biomedical Engineering. And Maritza is at UCLA, majoring in Financial Actuarial. They embody our goal of increasing the number of women in the STEM workforce and prepared for STEM jobs by fostering girls’ skills and competitiveness and finding new ways to help young girls create, build, and experience technology. In the near term, we seek to be a supportive community, providing mentors to supplement girls’ experiences and encourage their self-confidence, academic interests, and socio-emotional development.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

DIY Girls measures outcomes through regular pre- and post-surveys of participants, which have demonstrated consistent, remarkable success in supporting girls’ increased interest in and pursuit of STEM education and careers. Surveys of 5th-grade girls in pre-COVID programs found that 91% would like to participate in more activities related to science and engineering and 97% felt comfortable using electronic tools to make new things. Fall 2020 results during distance learning found 93% would be interested in taking an engineering and technology class and 76% believe they can help solve problems in their community with the skills they have. Pre-COVID surveys of middle school girls found 91% knew what a computer scientist does and 97% felt comfortable using computer programs to make things. Fall 2020 results found 80% want to participate in more engineering and technology activities and 82% reported thinking about different ways to solve a problem to come up with the best solution.

Which of the learn metrics will you impact?​

  • Enrollment in afterschool programs
  • Proficiency in STEM

Indicate any additional LA2050 goals your project will impact.

  • LA is the best place to CREATE
  • LA is the best place to CONNECT