Tara wanted to give up. The circuit she was building wasn’t working. It didn’t light up the LED light at the end of the copper tape. Her partner, listening silently for a while to the Techbridge Program Coordinator trying to keep Tara motivated, suddenly looked up and said, "Tara, don’t you want to change the world? Because Techbridge is the only place that lets you do that. It’s the only place where you can be a girl, make things, and take things apart!" Tara came back, finished her project, and received a shout-out from her partner for being a good team member.
Moments like this have been repeated at just about every one of our seven school sites since we launched the DC programs in October. At Burroughs Elementary, twins Liana and Lauren, who never joined after-school programs, lobbied their father, Lester Redmond, to change his schedule, so he could pick them up after Techbridge. They shared this story at their school’s Family Night, where they happily showed Lester what structural engineering is all about. They never miss a design challenge in class, either. Not one. They stick with a problem until it is solved.
Exceptional stories become the norm with our partnering schools. At Brightwood Elementary, we were forced to enroll a 3rd grade sister of a 7th grade participant, because she tagged along, and because she surpassed the 8th graders in her 2-D circuit-making skills! The clincher though was when she wrote, “I love Techbridge!” all over the board. At DC Bilingual, four mothers attended a field trip to Symantec. They tinkered, took apart a mainframe, and told us, in Spanish, that they never knew that STEM could be so fun, as they boarded the bus back to school.
Best of all, we saw the progress made by all of our girls at our year-end Family Nights. These are events coordinated by our girls to showcase all they have experienced and learned in their year-long Techbridge experience. Girls presentations ranged from package engineering, bridge building design, and video games coded using Scratch, which were all original ideas of the girls, guided by Techbridge.
So many Techbridge girls, from Oakland and San Jose, to Seattle, and now in DC show us each day, how inspired they are about science, technology and engineering. Most of all, they show us that building “soft” skills like grit, perseverance, and problem solving, and just plain excitement about STEM, are just as critical as the “hard” content knowledge. We can’t wait for this next school year. We can’t wait to see how our girls get inspired to STEM!