To make the lucrative opportunities in the fields of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) attainable career goals for women, Delaware County Technical Schools (DCTS), in partnership with the Delaware County Chamber of Commerce, gathered 13 girls from eight school districts, forming four teams to participate in the worldwide Technovation Challenge for Philly Tech Week’s The CTC Remix: Careers, Technology, & Coding.
Miranda Lopez and her teammate, who could not attend, called themselves Team Tigerphants and created the winning app, “Spot Spot,” to tackle the problem of finding missing pets in their communities.
During her presentation, Lopez spoke about the high cost of public funding with the Brandywine Valley SPCA to catch stray animals, offering their app as a means around the fees to help runaway pets be reunited with their owners through notices and community searches.
“Our app is about lost animals and stray dogs and people who lose their pets off and on,” Lopez said, speaking as a pet-owner who has experienced a dog that went missing, but was found safe.
Tamia Cottman and her team created an app called “Supply Me” to offset the lack of teaching supplies, a problem that Cottman said occurs in many schools, including her own. Cottman said the thought-process behind her app’s creation was, “Helping schools in our community and everywhere.” The app, according to Cottman, allows schools to connect with neighboring schools for supplies,
“Litter Bin,” an app created by Kirdecee Tecee and her team, brings groups of people together for community-wide meetup events focused on cleaning up litter. The girls hope to attract corporate sponsors to provide food and supplies such as trash bags to the events. Tecee said litter is big problem in many of their communities.
Emily Wick and Zakina Stroman, members of Team Crystal Gems, created an app called “Stereotype Slayer” to combat stereotypes that affect people from all walks of life. The app features stories told from the perspective of stereotyped individuals and tips to overcome them. “Stereotype Slayer” also has an in-app game where users are presented with a picture and must select from a list of attributes they believe fit the person, a way to test the biases of people.
“I just felt it was a big thing in society where people are judged way too quickly” Stroman said about creation of their app.
“I think it’s great they were ‘talking-to-talking,’ like they used the lingo used when creating an app,” said Glennice Gustan, one of the judges and a computer science professor at Delaware County Community College. He also highlighted the girls’ tackling the business end of creating the apps, and “not just the tech part.”
The all-girl teams, part of #DelcoGirlsCode, spoke about the importance of nurturing young girls’ interest in the overwhelmingly male-dominated fields of STEM, where harsh stereotypes of the female intellect run rampant, leading to many women becoming discouraged.
Gustan spoke of the times female college students confided that they couldn’t enter the field of programming because it’s male-dominated.
“I’m just like, ‘no’, as a matter of fact, most of the professors we have that teach STEM and computer science at the college, are females,” Gustan said. “They should do what they really like regardless of the fact that it seems male-dominated, right now; we want to attract more girls in STEM and encourage them to keep going with it.”
“I remember seeing this thing online about how most girls in fourth grade, at least 60 percent, say they want to have a math background, but only 40 percent or less are actually in the profession,” said Wick, a sixth grader who plans to pursue a STEM-related career. “So, I don’t know; it definitely seems to play a huge role.”
Cottman, an eighth grader, who also plans to pursue a career in STEM as a petroleum engineer, said, “I think focus is on men (in STEM), but the focus is never really on women.”
“Girls and women can do it as well as men can,” she said, adding that she won’t be discouraged to pursue her dream.
Lopez said the purpose for #DelcoGirlsCode is to show the world that girls and women are not limited to stereotypes and can excel in the fields of STEM, like their male counterparts.
“It’s really important for us to expose girls to computer science programs and make it fun and relevant for them because this generation, especially, are big users of technology, Latiyanna Tabb, DCTS community resource developer/Perkins Coordinator, said, “We want to make sure they have the skills, knowledge and exposure to become both savvy users and creators of technology.”