Possibilities/Potential: Educating Girls in STEM
Working in the Northeast San Fernando Valley, DIY Girls provides hands-on STEM coding and electronics educational programs for girls of color that build self-confidence, interest, academic skills and resiliency while introducing the possibilities open to them through STEM college and career pathways. We believe that learning about and creating with technology prepares girls to achieve their goals and be successful in future STEM careers, ensuring that they – and their families and communities – thrive economically and socially.
What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?
K-12 STEAM Education
In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?
San Fernando Valley
In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?
Expand existing project, program, or initiative
What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?
We seek to address a persistent problem of inequity. At an individual level, far too few girls of color are pursuing science and math education and careers. Nationally, only 15% of girls between 4th-8th grade show interest in STEM. More broadly, the girls we work with are often shut out of opportunities for well-paying, secure and rewarding careers – careers that help stabilize families for generations. Women represent only 28% of overall employed scientists and engineers in the U.S., and just 2% are Latinas. There is an immediate opportunity to address this imbalance with the U.S. expecting to have 3.5 million STEM job vacancies by 2025. Acting now, we can ensure we fill these openings with workers who reflect our country’s demographics. We are reaching girls at an age when studies show their interest in STEM and their belief they can succeed in STEM-related studies falls dramatically, which leads eventually to the wide disparity of women in STEM fields and high-paying careers.
Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.
Our STEM programs provide hands-on experiences for girls using a three-pronged program approach that integrates engagement, capacity building, and continuity to ensure their long-term success. Girls master technical and practical skills while learning about educational and career opportunities, visiting STEM workplaces and being introduced to successful women in STEM fields. DIY Girls is the only organization working solely with girls – majority girls of color – in LA’s Northeast San Fernando Valley region, among the city’s most under-resourced and underserved communities. Adding to our singularity and impact, we work with girls as they start to form career interests – maximizing our ability to positively alter the course of their education by providing them the tools to persist in STEM. Our Creative Technologies programs are: Creative Electronics, an intensive 10-week after-school program for 5th grade girls held at partnering elementary schools that sparks curiosity and exploration with technology by providing experiences that promote the development of technical skills, expression of creativity and self-confidence. Girls participate in 2-hour sessions once per week. Creative Engineering, an intensive 10-week after-school program held at local middle schools that introduces students to engineering concepts and related STEM career fields such as aerospace engineering, computer animation, and video game design. Girls participate in 2-hour sessions once per week.
Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.
Our vision for short-term success – young girls creating, building and experiencing technology in a supportive community who learn together – ties directly to our long-term goal of increasing the number of women in the STEM workforce so they can reach their potential as successful, community-minded adults. We advance toward this vision day by day, girl by girl – with girls who embody our mission, such as Karimar, a rising 12th-grader who has been in two of our programs, and Montserrat, a rising 12th-grader who has been in five. "I’m a critical thinker,” Montserrat says. “I help my peers with their problems when coding and find ways to solve them. We also solve real world problems by creating apps and robots to help others." "DIY Girls has helped me a lot in the college aspect. It helped me discover the career I want to pursue [computer science] and it showed me that it’s possible for me to succeed,” Karimar says. “Since elementary, DIY Girls has prepared me for college and life.”
What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?
We closely track metrics and outcomes to assess participants’ growth and our programmatic outcomes and strengths, and the impacts of our programs continue to be significant and positive. We conduct pre/post surveys of all participants and aggregate findings to determine how well we increase girls’ continued interest in STEM, support their problem solving skills and build confidence in their technical abilities. In 2020-21, we achieved the following outcomes: Creative Electronics - 79% believe they can be successful in any job/career in STEM; 80% would like to participate in more activities related to engineering and technology; and 80% believe that when they do not get something right the first time, they’ll keep trying. Creative Engineering - 67% believe they can be successful in any job/career in STEM; 67% would like to participate in more activities related to engineering and technology; and 67% believe that when they do not get something right the first time, they’ll keep trying.
Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?
Direct Impact: 354
Indirect Impact: 180