Growing a Culture of Makers and Innovators in the San Fernando Valley

Recently the DIY Girls Summer Camp held a showcase to highlight the work of the young participants over the course of their five week summer camp. Tables were arranged for each of the topics camp explored: robotics, inventing with recycled electronics, wearable technology, toy making, and creating with computers. Luz Rivas, the program's founder, was busy welcoming students, parents, community partners, and friends as the event got underway at the Pacoima Neighborhood City Hall.

Each of the five weeks of the camp offered the young participants an opportunity to explore different technology and skills to create something based on the topic. Jazmin Alvarenga stood next to a computer connected to a MaKey MaKey board that she had devised during the "creating with computers" week. The external board allowed Jazmin to develop a unique and fun set of controls for a video game she had also programmed. Next to her, Jisel Burgos and Kimberly Hernandez were demonstrating how they used the MaKey MaKey board to create a cardboard keyboard attached to a computer. When a key was touched it played a different song that the two girls had programmed. Both Jazmin and Kimberly had taken part in the DIY Girls afterschool program at Telfair Elementary. The summer camp gave them an opportunity to apply what they had learned during the school year and extend their knowledge through the exploration and creation of several projects during the camp.

Jisele and Kimberly demonstrate how their video game works.

This approach of retaining students and providing new and rich opportunities to create is key to how DIY Girls operates. Nurturing the girls interests in science, technology, engineering, and math through a series of activities that are fun, and offer new skills for the girls to apply. As the girls progress through the program their foundational knowledge and confidence grows. Ideally, this will foster a new crop of young women eager to study and go into the fields of science, engineering and technology.

This was certainly evident at the table that featured work from the "inventing with recycled electronics" week. Vanessa and Doris Acuna, Liliana Ramos, and Eileen Alfonso all talked about wanting to continue with DIY Girls to make more things and learn about technology. During this week the girls took apart various electronics to see what was inside, learn about the individual components, and investigate how they worked. Afterwards they were able to make completely new things from all the individual parts, in the end creating an entire town.

DIY Girls participants, Eileen, Vanessa, Doris, and Liliana enjoy their creations

Parents, Rayna and David, test their daughters projects

Reyna Marquez was at the next table putting on gloves and pressing them together. Her daughter Eileen had sewed a Hello Kitty face on a pair of gloves, and fixed an LED light under the kitty's face that lights up when the gloves touched. The harsh morning sun didn't allow Reyna to see the light but that didn't minimize her excitement and pride in seeing her daughter's project. Eileen's dad, David Lara, recounted that ever since Eileen has been participating in DIY Girls, "she is the go to person when any electronic device is not working at home. She's the one who will try to figure it out and fix it." DIY Girls is a family affair for them, with their eldest daughter Diana Bocanegra an Afterschool Program Fellow at Telfair Elementary.

Nearby David Avitia spoke to his daughter Christiana about the paper circuits created by the girls during the fourth week of the camp. David works at an aerospace engineering firm and is happy with his daughter's growing interest in engineering. "This has given us new things to talk about. We can communicate about what she's done at the camp, and I can show her different tools she can use. It's great." Luz Rivas has seen this with some of the other participants. "It can be tough for some fathers to relate to their preteen daughters, but now the dads have something they can talk to their daughters about and help them with." The girls and their dads are able to communicate in a shared language of making, repairing, and curiosity on how things work.

David and Christiana talk circuit boards

In addition to highlighting the work of the participants, the event served as a place where the community and sponsors could recognize the work of DIY Girls. Representatives from Congressman Tony Cárdenas office, Councilman Felipe Fuentes, and LAUSD Boardmember Mónica Ratliff attended the event and took part in an awards ceremony that saw both the organization and young participants come out winners. Event sponsor Time Warner Cable donated $7,500 dollars to DIY Girls and three Apple Mini iPads as part of their Connect A Million Minds campaign. The iPads were awarded to Vanessa Acuna, Kimberly Hernandez, and Jisel Burgos for their projects.

DIY Girls is continuing its programs in school and after school programs at Telfair Elementary School and Vaughn Next Century Learning Center, as well as its programs for women throughout the year.

Community and corporate support allows DIY Girls to continue and grow


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