She Can Tech

She Can Tech is a near-peer technology program for middle school girls made to increase the meaningful participation of women in STEM.

Photo of Sanja Kirova
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Additional categories (optional)

  • Education

Are you employed by T-Mobile or related to an employee of T-Mobile?

  • No

Eligibility: Date of Birth

December 8, 2000

Help us stay in touch!

219-221-2410 70 Morningside Dr. 5942 Wien Hall Columbia Student Mail

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Date You Started Your Project Started

August 13, 2018

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

  • Growth (have moved past the very first activities; working towards the next level of expansion)

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

Every child asks how the world works. Some inquisitors are rewarded with detailed explanations, others receive simplifications, but many get “You don’t need to know that.” Frequently, many are women, especially women of color, who are raised believing that they do not belong in STEM. Cultivating girls’ early interest in STEM lets every woman find “what makes her tick;" engaging girls in STEM gives birth to future Mary Jacksons and Marie Curies.

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

Through a 15-day technology camp for girls grades 4-9 we prepare girls for future endeavors in STEM. The curriculum currently covers drag-and-drop programming using Scratch, app-making using MIT AppInventor, web development using Adobe Dreamweaver, and electronics and C++ programming using Arduino UNO. The program first teaches computer science logic with an “unplugged” activity. Next, students create “1-function” video games that represent solutions to issues in career fields of interest (e.g. civil engineering game eliminating fractures in buildings). App-making focuses on creating “1-function” apps that solve social issues (e.g. ESL vocab flash cards). Websites are two-page portfolios. Partner Arduino projects range from playing with LEDs to sensing and using motors. Each project is briefly presented in front of an audience for soft skills practice. Each day starts with “Share Circles” where girls discuss questions like “What is responsible innovation?” Speakers from diverse backgrounds help the girls connect what they are learning to how it applies in the industry. She Can Tech provides a supportive environment where girls can make mistakes, learn to problem solve and have fun.

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

Have you ever walked into a room feeling underdressed? Typically, walking into a Robotics lab full of boys for the first time feels that exact way. However, I had Lindsey, whose short hair concealed her at first glance. She, too, handled the tools and concepts with grace, but when I held the allen key incorrectly or crashed the robot into a wall, she was there to teach me. Because she believed in my potential equally, I wholeheartedly dedicated myself to the project. As a result, our high school team received its first awards. Upon her graduation, I became Lindsey for new girls on the team. Like her, I shared my specialties and their teams started gathering awards, too. This collaboration between female team members inspired an open source culture between teams at our school. We were incited to ask: what happens when a girl turns her back on STEM because she is one-of-a-kind in the room?

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

She Can Tech is a near-peer technology program serving middle school girls based in Northwest Indiana. Hear about the purpose of She Can Tech from our Leaders.

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

Of the most shy and reserved participants was Jade. Jade, like other girls, remained to herself at the start of the program. However, Share Circles, partner work, and presentations made it difficult for the girls to remain isolated. With co-leaders coaxing responses from the girls, they became more self-assured and opened up to a world of insight! Jade began to thrive in conversation and learned quickly, so we challenged her outside of her comfort zone to explain complex concepts to her peers. We identified Jade, among others, as a future leader and trained her over the summer to develop and sustain the program. This year, Jade has joined the Robotics and Science Olympiad teams, enrolled in multiple STEM courses, and is part of our team. Seeing the confidence and competence participants gain through She Can Tech has defined what empowerment of girls means and motivates us to expand.

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

Recruiting Leaders and virtually training Leaders interested in replicating this student initiative allows us to sustain the free She Can Tech curricula in and out of state. Our Leaders are volunteers and their contributions allow She Can Tech to offer a growing variety of STEM topics. We also heavily involve families with newsletters and Info Meets prior to sessions where daughters and families can collaborate on sample projects, receive tips on how to support daughters in STEM, and register. Lastly, we focus on participants' individual growth and the meaningful projects they build for good.

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

She Can Tech presented 60 hours of programming total last year. We served 30 girls across two locations (one high school and one Boys & Girls Club). Our pre- and post-surveys measured confidence in ability to solve problems, program computers, think and create inventions, learn technology, and do well in the technology field as well as to gage interest in taking future classes. Aside from an overall increase in confidence, interest, and friendships made, it is remarkable that 80% said that she could see someone like herself succeed in a technology field compared to 54% prior. 92% said they hope to do the program again next year; 100% said they hope to take another computer class or workshop in the future. As a result, we recruited three additional Leaders and improved our surveys with knowledge-based questions. We also delivered 18 hours of STEM across 12 Club locations in Indiana.

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

Originally, She Can Tech is an AspireIT grant recipient from NCWIT. However, we would like to become a nonprofit organization so that we may mobilize the organization and curriculum to impact girls and communities across the U.S. without being legally bound to a single Fiscal Agent (the Boys & Girls Club in this case). Although we will continue partnering with the Clubs to bring this opportunity to our target audience, we would also like to expand our programs to include more STEM topics, initiatives, and mentorships for girls and boys, racial minorities, low-income, first-generation college bound students, and other social identity groups that feel STEM is inaccessible. We hope to continue building this community of women empowering women.

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

  • Legal Services

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

  • Friend support
  • Family support
  • Mentors/advisors
  • Donations less than $100

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 [optional] Which of the following categories do you identify with?

  • White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French) (6)
  • Hispanic, Latino/a, or Spanish origin (for example: Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuba, Salvadoran, Dominican, Colombian) (7)
  • Black or African American (for example: African American, Jamaican, Haitian, Nigerian, Ethiopian, Somalian, etc) (8)

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 [optional] Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities?

  • Communities of color
  • Low-income community
  • LGBTQ community
  • Religious minority (non-Christian)
  • Other

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • In-person event

Referral: If you discovered the Challenge thanks to an organization or person other than Ashoka or T-Mobile, who was it?

I participated in the Boys & Girls Club National Keystone Conference in Orlando, FL this summer as Indiana State Youth of the Year, and I heard about this challenge from T-Mobile representatives.

Evaluation results

14 evaluations so far

1. Overall evaluation

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 92.9%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 7.1%

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%! - 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%

3. Creativity

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 85.7%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 7.1%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 7.1%

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

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer - 0%

4. Commitment

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 100%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 7.1%

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%! - 92.9%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 7.1%

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%


Join the conversation:

Photo of Marija

Sanja, your project proves what girls can do together when they support each other. It is a very clever idea of teaching the future leaders. I like the multiple aspects of your project; you are making sure they acquire hard skills, but soft skills too. This is an example of a thorough plan you created. I wish you all the best!

Photo of Sanja Kirova

Thank you Marija!

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