Empowering girls to grow confidence and creativity through code.

Photo of Ashley Chu

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Additional categories (optional)

  • Technology

Website or social media url(s) (optional):

Date You Started Your Project Started


Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Scaling (expanding impact to many new places or in many new ways)

1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

Technology is one of the fastest-growing industries, however, the diversity within technology is failing to expand as the field grows. Only about 16-37% of females make up this industry and less than 10% of those in technology are people of color. This issue is embedded in societal stereotypes, but as technology affects our world, it's increasingly important that every community has a seat at the table to represent themselves and others.

2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

To solve this problem, we work with middle-school and high-school girls through three main program: weekly workshop series with local public venues (such as libraries and schools), summer camp programs, and one-day events. To optimize our impact within our community, we created a variety of options and events. During each of these programs, we generally have a specific topic that we focus on such as "web applications + sustainability" where we have students use code to solve problems. We offer a large variety of programs, to allow access to all types of students and to create low and high commitment courses. We want our program to be as individualized as possible to help girls learn at their own pace and feel confident and capable in whatever they do.

3. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?

The morning of my first high school hackathon in tenth grade, I jumped out of bed with excitement. However, upon arriving at the hackathon, my clunky ThinkPad immediately clashed with the sleek MacBooks of my teammates. I was the only girl on an all-guys team. Assigned to the role of the "designer" of our application, I didn't type a single line of code that night. The following year, I attended a major tech conference. As I headed towards the bathroom, I was in shock. There was no line, yet across the hall, the men's line snaked across the venue. For the first time, I wished for that long bathroom line. These are only a preview of snippets of my experiences. I have had negative comments thrown at me at robotics competitions and struggled to raise my hand to ask questions. Pushing through these obstacles, I want to create a space where any person can pursue their dreams freely.

4. Selfie Elevator Pitch: Include 1-minute video that answers the following “I am stepping up to make change because...”

5. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.

For students, walking into the classroom is just the first step to heading onto the road of exploring one's STEM passion. During our summer camp program, students begin the first-day diving into different computer science concepts from HTML to scribble bots and meeting new friends. In the first few days, students complete mini hands-on projects. If we were teaching hardware development, this would include, programming an Arduino to simply light up an LED. Along the way, we will slowly increase the difficulty of projects as students learn more about specific concepts – these projects include programming a lightning cloud and even a simple game with buttons. We also host guest speakers who describe their work. By the end, students create a final project and also have a field trip at a local tech company. As one of our students described us, you could say we're a "funner version of school".

6. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

I think the most significant part about our program is that we're youth-led and we focus on a curriculum that allows computer science to mold to one's passions. When thinking about computer science, it's easy to picture the idea of a person typing 1s and 0s on a dark screen in the middle of the dark. However, by hosting "computer science + you!"-focused programs, we try to broaden our impact and reach. Being youth-led, we also have the ability to become role models for younger students who are just exploring their curiosity with computer science and STEM as a whole.

7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

Filling up my library’s computer lab with middle school students by hosting coding workshops, I experienced the adventure of watching light bulbs illuminate the room as a reaction from my teachings. With the help of sponsorships from Disney and NCWIT, what started out as a scrappy community initiative soon blossomed into a national, youth-led initiative empowering girls to become confident and capable through code. Since the start of She STEMs, we’ve sparked interests in STEM in over 200 girls through weekly workshops and camps and raised over $13,000. As of today, we've hosted over 15 workshops, 2 summer camps, and partnered with over 3 organizations. In total, we've spent over 350 hours teaching computer science to students and spent hundreds of hours more planning each event.

8. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

Firstly, we want to create a new online platform to connect with students from outside of California who may lack programming resources. By doing so, we hope to also create a coding kit for students where we can work with them 1-on-1 remotely through a 5-week mentorship program. Through this, students would work one-on-one with a team representative and develop different projects as outlined in a booklet we create. This way, we can bring the She STEMs experience remotely outside of California and beyond to other states and even outside of California. Currently, we're also planning a one-day themed conference to introduce middle-school youth to STEM planned to take place in February and a penpal program with other STEM programs.

9. Which of the following types of expertise would be most useful for you?

  • Project Plan & Strategy

10. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Friend support
  • Family support
  • Mentors/advisors
  • Donations between $1k-$5k
  • Donations over $10k

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Social media
  • Recommended by others

Evaluation results

4 evaluations so far

1. Overall evaluation

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 25%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 75%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - It didn’t make my heart beat faster. - 0%

2. Changemaker Quality

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 50%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 25%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 25%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

3. Creativity

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 25%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 0%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 50%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 25%

No Answer - 0%

4. Commitment

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 100%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 33.3%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer - 0%

5. Connection

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 100%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 0%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer or No Connection - 0%


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