Writeup and photographs by Shuva Rahim, Accent Photographics. Originally posted on shuvarahim.com. Many thanks to Shuva for recording this special day!
IOWA CITY and CORALVILLE, Iowa – QR codes, chemistry experiments, computer software programs, design-builds and startup pitches were among the highlights of the 2nd Girls Tech Career Day put on by the Iowa Tech Chicks on Wednesday. I was among the group of volunteers who helped with this event, the aim of which is to educate and inspire local girls in grades 5 to 8 about science and technology through the eyes of area women who are experts in their fields. Similar to last year, we had a small group – 16 girls – who were part of this year’s tech career day. Roughly half this time were from Iowa City’s school district; half were from outlying schools, and all participants were interested in the sciences.
We started the day at Kirkwood Community College, where the girls were broken into groups to do a classroom scavenger hunt for QR codes. They had to scan the codes to unlock a piece of trivia about women in technology. It was a fun, breaking-the-ice exercise for the girls while allowing us to all learn about some amazing facts on women’s contributions to the sciences for more than a century.
We had a busy day planned for the girls, starting with some time in the chemistry lab at Kirkwood with instructor Lynne Zeman. She let the girls test various liquid and flame reactions with powder substances, such as sugar.
Toward the end of their lab time Lynne had the girls gather around her as she turned pennies into a gold color. And it’s fair to say this first hour was among the favorite highlights of many of the girls.
After chemistry, the girls learned about finding a problem in their lives and coming up with a solution they could pitch to others. This segment was brilliantly led by Michal Eynon-Lynch, co-creator of an educational app called Pear Deck. It was like watching an intro class on how to do a startup pitch for great ideas. And the girls did come up with fantastic ideas, from magnetic hair accessories to prevent losing them to – my personal favorite – a built-in fan on a countertop so dishes could be done faster.
Then it was to the computer lab where Anamika Chandel, founder of an Indian handmade clothing and accessory company called The Silk, introduced the girls to a design program called SketchUp. The 3D-design program allowed the girls to experiment with creating buildings of all kinds on their own. It’s also a free download if you want to try it for yourselves.
We then headed to the Coralville Colab, where the girls munched on lunch from Pancheros and got to hear about monkey research done by University of Iowa assistant psychology professor Julie Gros-Louis. She currently does research on infant communication, and talked about how her interest in that subject stemmed from studying a primate species in Costa Rica.
A short drive away was ConnectFive, a design-usability company which also was part of this event last year and since relocated its offices to a really great space in Coralville near the Oakdale campus. The firm’s mission for the girls – which they broke up into teams – was to create a prototype bag for a specific persona (in this case an individual on the ConnectFive staff) using materials provided. There was quite a bit of drawing out ideas, discussions and major paper construction during this project among the teams.
We returned to Kirkwood where the girls learned about Scratch, a programming-language software developed at MIT which they used to create a computer game as guided by University of Iowa software developer Tricia Ball.
Finally, the last part of the day – and one of the most exciting parts – was the experience the girls shared in taking apart computers. This segment was taught by Kris Arens of SiloTree Coaching and Consulting, who compared the different computer parts to the human body to make this session more relatable. The girls had a blast pulling parts out and looking at them with great curiosity.
Overall, it was a fun-filled educational event for the girls, as well as the volunteer team. Even though this was our second go-around, we learned a lot from each other’s presentations and are excited to how the girls will use what they’ve learned to impact their lives.
At the end of the day we had the girls fill out surveys. And we couldn’t resist sharing this reaction on the Iowa Tech Chicks Twitter feed immediately when we saw it:
Thanks to the presenters, our sponsors and more importantly the girls’ parents as well as their teachers for supporting them in this endeavor!