Middle school girls interested in STEM: The Oak Park Public Library will be hosting an event with TechGirlz Thursday for girls who want to learn how to build robots.
As part of the workshop, participating girls will learn how to program Edison, a LEGO compatible robot, using EdScratch to navigate obstacles through a maze, said Amy Hofmockel, creative technology librarian at OPPL, adding that robot-centered programs are popular.
TechGirlz is run by CompTIA Spark, a nonprofit and social extension of CompTIA — a nonprofit trade association that offers technology industry certifications — that works to directly fund and provide program support through content and curriculum for students to gain knowledge into the world of technology.
As part of their commitment to igniting that ‘spark,’ TechGirlz, a nonprofit program of CompTIA Spark, provides learning opportunities for girls ages 11 to 14 to engage with technology.
Gwendolyn Britton, vice president of external relations for CompTIA Spark, said the goal is to unlock girls’ potential in technology.
“We want to bring high quality technical education to middle school kids,” Britton said, adding they offer both in-school and out-of-school programs. “TechGirlz really focuses on narrowing the gender gap because as we know, there are not nearly as many middle school girls interested in technology as there are young men.”
TechGirlz is the only out-of-school program offered by CompTIA Spark. It works alongside community partners, such as OPPL, to provide them with the curriculum and materials needed to host either face-to-face or virtual workshops, along with providing training to volunteers. By creating opportunities for girls to be exposed to tech outside of the classroom, Britton said, the hope would be they can see all the possibilities available in the world of technology.
“We want them to see that there are all kinds of different opportunities in the land of tech that are not necessarily sitting behind a computer and coding,” Britton said. “We want to get them exposed to different careers so they can actually see themselves in that [field].”
The partnership between the library and TechGirlz began a few years ago through a grant used to purchase tech equipment, including Edison robots, a 3D printer, 3D pens, and a video drone, items the library could use for the program.
“When girls are allowed to have a space where they are not competing for attention, then they become much more interested in STEM projects and activities,” Hofmockel said.
For the upcoming event, the 20 Edison robots will be used.
“The cool thing about these robots is that they come already with some pre-programmed stuff on them that allows the girls who have not been exposed to that kind of thing not be intimidated by it,” Britton said. “It gently eases the girls into exposure and to see what they can do … and it gives them the opportunity to learn how to engage and interact with the robot and use coding.”
Hofmockel calls the program “empowering” for young girls.
“You get the results right away and it makes a big impact on the girls feeling like ‘I am a programmer, I program robots,” Hofmockel said.
Registration for the TechGirlz: Programming Edison Robots event is available online at oppl.org under the events calendar. It will be held in the Creative Studio located on the third floor of the main library, on Lake Street, on Thursday, Nov. 2.