"When a door closes, a window opens" may be a cliche, but it's remarkably apt in a recent project I had the pleasure to run.
I applied for and received a grant from the Mitchell Institute in 2014 to attend the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. Unfortunately, I was not able to attend the event, so I wrote a proposal to redirect my Mitchell Institute award in another endeavor. At first, I searched for a comparable event with lower travel costs. No such opportunities presented themselves. Days later, I learned of the tragic death of a local young woman, Dawnn Jaffier.
I was heartbroken that my city had lost such a bright life, a woman who had dedicated her time and talent to making a positive difference with the city’s at-risk youth. I wondered what I could do, in her honor, to help Boston children in my unique way. I thought about my daughter’s nearly unlimited access to toys and games that stimulate her interest in different topics. Most notably, we have been using an engineering game called GoldieBlox specifically designed for girls to introduce engineering concepts such as levers, wheels, and pulleys.
I asked the Mitchell Institute to re-direct their generous funding to purchase the full array of GoldieBlox engineering toys for the urban Boston locations of the Boston Boys and Girls Clubs, including the Hennigan branch where Dawnn worked as a mentor and afterschool coordinator. I recently delivered these gifts in person to visit the staff and children in the afterschool programs to explain the game and tell them why I love working in technology. GoldieBlox generously offered me wholesale pricing to stretch the grant money a lot further. My company EMC provided me with volunteer time off days to complete the project, and profiled my STEM educational outreach efforts in a video for International Women's Day (which I highlighted in this blog post).
I was so excited to bring my passion for technology to Boston students who might not otherwise have access. I’ve been a resident of Boston for over a decade, and still live in the area. I hope that by seeing a local community parent who works in technology, local students will see this as a potential career path.
First I visited the Charlestown club. The girls and I had a fantastic time assembling the toys and learning about gravity and mechanics. The teams built a dunk tank, zip line, and spinning wheel machine in minutes flat.
Here are some short videos of the toys.
Last week I went to the Sumner club. The 4th grade girls were very cooperative. A memorable comment came from one of the girls who was impressed by my iPhone 6, which I used to take many of these photos. She asked me about it and I mentioned that it came from my company so that I could conduct business on it. She looked at me with surprise and asked, as a savvy young student, "Do they also pay for the data plan?" When I told her they did, she replied, "I want to work for EMC!"
I went to the Hennigan club today. They plan to use the GoldieBlox kits for an after school engineering club for girls every Thursday.