Community Workshop: Make Your Future

On March 7, 2020, five days before the University announced a move to online instruction due to the COVID-19 public health emergency, we hosted a group of middle school students as part of a workshop in collaboration with UTD’s Science and Engineering Education Center (SEEC) and Girl Scouting in the School Day.

We had been in conversation with the SEEC about possible collaborations when they suggested that we partner on the Girl Scouting in the School Day event they had coming up. Girl Scouting in the School Day is a leadership development program run by Girl Scouts of North Texas that specifically works with middle school students at underserved schools right in the middle of their school day, making the Girl Scout experience available to a wider range of young people. For this event, they wanted to bring as many as 100 students to the university to showcase it as a creative and fun space, full of diverse people just like themselves. Their hope was that this would demystify the university a bit and allow the students to imagine themselves a future that includes college. Sounded like just our thing!

The thought of up to 100 middle school students was a little intimidating (maybe a lot intimidating…). Fashioning Circuits members got together and developed a set of four activities that we could rotate them through in groups of 25 each.

We decided on an coding workshop using Arduino, a blackout poetry workshop, a tour of the Edith O’Donnell Arts and Technology Building, and a zine workshop in which they would be asked to make a one-page collage in response to the prompt, “imagine your future.” Then for each group, we would assemble their pages into a zine and give each participant two copies – one for themselves and one for trading. Each group’s zine had a unique front cover that was designed by a different member of Fashioning Circuits.

a black and white booklet showing different zine cover pages
Test printing different zine cover pages. The actual zines were printed in color.

By the time the event rolled around, the news about Coronavirus was getting pretty serious but not to the extent that classes or on campus activities had really been affected. We were able to stock up on disinfecting wipes and make sure we had plenty of hand sanitizer. On the day of the event, volunteers from Fashioning Circuits, UTD’s Women in STEM Living Learning Community, and Professor Knight’s undergraduate Critical Making class (ATCM 3331) assembled for the big day.

A group of people of varying skin tones sit in rows on bleachers, smiling for the camera. With the exception of one woman, they are all wearing Fashioning Circuits t-shirts.
Top row (L-R): Prof. Llamas-Rodriguez and Atanur Andic. Third row: Diamond Beverly, Erin Bray, Emma Delight, and Michael Galloway. Second Row: Rosalie McManis, Mohammed M. Rashid, Maedeh Asgharpour, Cynthia O’Neill, Catalina Alzate, and Prof. Wu. First row: Nic Geldert, Cameron Irby, Carlin Flores, and Prof. Knight. Not pictured: volunteers from UTD’s Women in STEM LLC

It turns out there were more like 60 students that day! But you would not have known it from the energy in the building. It felt like there were 100! We were busy enough that we didn’t do a great job at taking photos. You can see a photo of the entire group and some samples of blackout poetry created by participants on our Instagram page:

After the event, we did what anyone else would do; we went out for boba tea and macarons.

A variety of brightly colored macaron cookies sit on a brown napkin

If you’d like to see the zines from the day’s event, or even take copies for yourself, stop by the Critical Media Studies Little Free Zine Library in the Dean’s Suite on the 3rd floor of the ATC building.

Community-based work is a cornerstone of Fashioning Circuits. Our community work is anchored in reciprocity. We try to foster a partnership where both organizations identify their goals and we work together to develop programming in collaboration to meet the goals of all involved. Past workshops have included e-textiles (coding, sewing, etc), critical making (zines, 3d printing, embroidery, and so forth), emerging media (twitter bots, wiki editing), and the arts (blackout poetry, screenprinting, etc). We are able to work within a range of budgets, including no budget. If your group or organization would be interested in partnering in some way, feel free to reach out to kim dot knight at udallas dot edu.