Apr 102015
Three girls with backs to camera, around a laptop

Getting serious with art & code

On March 31, 2015 we had our first community event of the year and our first ever workshop with Brownies, i.e. Girl Scouts who are in the 2nd and 3rd grade.

Twenty Brownies joined us on campus at UT Dallas for programming that was focused on giving the girls a glimpse of the role of women in computing and on playing with code. We knew that for this age, we should try to move as much as possible away from abstract concepts, so we developed some new activities that we hoped would connect and excite the girls.

Drawing of a man with necktie and mustache, to which the student added a crown and ponytail after learning about Ada Lovelace.

One of the activities was to draw a picture of the first programmer. There were a lot of mustaches, but this was our favorite! We suspect some revision happened after we talked about Ada Lovelace.

Activities included drawing pictures of the first programmer, learning about Ada Lovelace, and a rousing game of “spot the programmer” where the students were shown slides with two images and they had to pick the one they thought was a programmer. We finished up by showing some interesting projects that bring together art and programming and then did some very basic activities with the Lilypad Arduino and the blink sketch.

Highlights from the one hour event included:

  • General amazement that there are elevators in college.
  • The student that informed us that hackers are BAD. Clearly she is getting some early web safety training somewhere. This was a great opportunity to break down what “to hack” means and how it can sometimes be used for good (as in our example of Ying Cracker, the Chinese hacker who helps people protect their data).
  • 30-second dance party as we discussed Shakira’s participation in Hour of Code.
  • The student who used the foil wrapper from the candy we handed out as conductive material in her circuit. Very clever!

At the end of the evening, the students took home UT Dallas folders that included handouts to help parents understand what we worked on and further resources in case the girls wanted to build on our very basic introduction.

Included here are the slides we used in keynote (35MB) and .pdf (25MB) form. They are licensed under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license.

Thanks so much to our fantastic Fashioning Circuits volunteers: Lauren, Laura, Lisa, and Patti! Thanks also to the UTD A&H Grad Student Association who provided us with folders left over from their conference!



Oct 202013
Vinyl Banner with the design your world logo

SMU was decorated and ready

Early on a Saturday morning, 11 Fashioning Circuits volunteers, ranging from 11 to 50-something years old, trekked down to Southern Methodist University for the Fall installment of the Design Your World conference, for 4th and 5th grade girls. Our volunteers included current and former students, parents, daughters, and friends from neighboring universities.

The event was organized by the Dallas Society of Women Engineers (SWE) in partnership with the SMU chapter of SWE . They invited Fashioning Circuits to lead an all day “Electronic Fashion Camp” workshop for twenty girls. In the morning, the workshop included an opening discussion about Fashion as Communication, an introduction to the concept of physical computing, and a coding workshop and time for geeking out and messing around with the Lilypad Arduino. The afternoon was focused on a take home project – a twinkling headband!

Young girl standing at a table where two girls are seated. An adult woman is hunched over the table.

Our youngest volunteer, Audrey, age 11, sharing her skills with her peers

It was a really fun day. The girls who attended that day learned a lot but we also learned a few things. Lessons that we learned include that you can never have too many pairs of scissors and that for future workshops we should not be tempted by the inexpensive sewing needle multipacks – many of the needles had eyes that were so tiny they were very difficult to work with! This was our first workshop for a group this young that included a take home project. Our strategy of gluing down the LilyTwinkle, LEDs, and battery holder in advance worked quite nicely.

According to the Dallas SWE’s writeup of the event, 82% of the kids responded that they would attend a Design Your World event again, and 88% responded that they would recommend the event to others. We hope that our numbers for Fashioning Circuits were even higher.

many children are seated at tables while adults sit or stand nearby

Lance and other volunteers help the girls during the coding activities.

The day made an impact on our volunteers as well. EMAC senior, Lance King, writes, “When I first got involved, I had no idea Fashioning Circuits would be such an impactful experience. The young girl I was mentoring through this project was so patient and inquisitive! Once we finished working on her head band, I looked her in the eyes and said, ‘The batteries are in now…Do YOU want to turn it on?!’ She nodded her head and as she flipped the switch…her eyes lit up and sparkled brighter than any LED could hope to! It felt SO amazing to be a part of a child’s educational experience in that way. I don’t think she’ll forget it and I know I won’t.”

If you would like to make your own twinkling headband, you may download the tutorial from here: http://kimknight.com/fashioningcircuits/twinkling-headband-tutorial.pdf