Last week, Elemental Energy PV Designer Cayleigh Allen worked with local non-profit ChickTech to put on a weeklong summer technology camp for middle school girls. ChickTech’s mission is to combat the stark gender disparities in technical fields by building girls’ confidence and introducing them to a wide range of technological fields. She details her experience below.

Ever since discovering how fun engineering is, I’ve wanted to help young girls experience the same excitement and enjoyment I feel when tackling an interesting problem. Currently the designers, developers, and engineers working on technical solutions to the world’s problems are largely representing only one-half of the population, leaving a great deal of untapped potential that’s not being realized. That’s where ChickTech comes in. Using a curriculum that’s focused on hands-on projects, they’re able to build confidence by providing girls with skills they can take home with them, and through that, hopefully inspire the next generation of engineers and computer scientists.

For my first project with ChickTech, I volunteered to organize their first ever weeklong camp for middle school girls—helping to develop the project curriculum as well as teach the workshops on Arduino programming and solar energy. Throughout the week, the girls made “soft circuits” projects, where they combined lights, sounds, and touch sensors to make an interactive textile project programmed with Arduino. They also learned JavaScript in order to program an interactive greeting card. The final day (my favorite!), we taught the girls where their power comes from and all about the benefits of renewable energy. After a tour of PGE’s control center, the girls built solar-powered lanterns and closed out the week with a technology showcase for their parents.

It took a considerable amount of time to prepare for ChickTech’s camp, as well as run and teach it, but I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity, and that Elemental Energy offers the support and flexibility necessary to pursue volunteer opportunities such as these. It was an incredibly rewarding experience, and I’m hoping that some of the girls I taught will be more apt to consider technological fields after attending the camp. After all, without diversity, technology will never reach its full potential. 

If you or someone you know is interested in volunteering with ChickTech or if you know a middle or high school aged girl who is interested in attending an event, contact Cayleigh at [email protected].

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