An innovative after-school program is transforming the lives of our young female students by engaging them in science, technology, and engineering learning. Through role models, hands-on activities, and career exploration, Techbridge is empowering girls to realize their dreams in STEM.
Techbridge has been a partner in Highline since 2014. The program serves more than 200 students and operates in six elementary schools, two middle schools, and on one high school campus.
Check out our photo gallery to see how Techbridge is motivating the next generation of female leaders in science, technology, and engineering.
Techbridge girls meet once a week and always start with an ice breaker. Today at Cascade, students toss around a beach ball and share one thing they learned about building robots.
"We're trying to build a reindeer robot whose eyes and nose glow," explains seventh-grade student Zaira Bautista.
Right now, Zaira is building the reindeer using everyday objects. Then she will write code on a laptop that is connected to a Hummingbird Robotics Kit
. The code tells the wires connected to the kit what to do, like light up the eyes and nose of her reindeer robot.
"I think Techbridge is really fun, and it's an opportunity to learn more about engineering, science, and technology. I want to be a vet when I grow up, and I believe it takes a lot of practice in math, technology, and engineering to be a very good veterinarian," said Zaira.
"I am making a snowman. We are going to put lights in it so the buttons and eyes light up," said seventh-grade student Angelina Rubi. "It's fun because you get to make stuff. "
Science teacher Taylor Alton helps with the Techbridge program at Cascade. She credits the program for giving her students more confidence in and outside the classroom.
"I have several girls in here who are not A students in science, but they come here every week to learn about science. They are finding success in science here, which translates to an increase of confidence in my class," said Taylor.
Students connect their Hummingbird Robotics Kit to the computer so they can begin coding.
Techbridge Program Coordinator Chanel Easley (left) answers questions from students Abigail Brown (middle) and Alyssa Rubi (right).
"I like meeting new friends and building stuff. I like learning how things work and how to program and code and make robots," said Abigail. "It's the best after-school program because it's all girls. No matter what you do, there are no boys to judge you. This program makes me feel confident. Techbridge is one big family. Whenever we fail on something we all come together to figure it out."
"It's amazing to see so many girls learning about so many different aspects of STEM," said Chanel. "For me, I want these girls to walk away knowing their options. I want them to walk away knowing they can code, program, and build. I want them to see that they can make a presentation in class and collaborate with others. And I want them to walk away with confidence."
Part of the Techbridge mission is to connect students with female role models. This afternoon, a group of female engineers and developers from Microsoft chat with Mount View Elementary students. Students also go on field trips to local tech businesses to meet with female engineers and computer scientists, participate in hands-on learning activities, and go on tours.
Students interview Microsoft employees about their work and education.
"As a female minority working in the tech industry, I really want to inspire these girls that they can be software engineers and developers," said Yinting Luo, program manager at Microsoft.
During today's Techbridge program, students are challenged to create a device that can shoot a ping-pong ball into a cup laying on its side one foot away. The students must be able to use the device while standing three feet away. They work with the Microsoft role models to design and build their device.
Johanna Hawkins, principal software developer at Microsoft, helps a student build her device.
"I've never done something like this, so it's interesting to interact with the next generation of engineers and software engineers," said Johanna. "I can sense they are very inspired about this work. I want them to be inspired and encouraged that they can do anything they want."
"I am really passionate about getting more and more women in the tech industry," said Gaia Carini, a senior program manager at Microsoft. "I think it's awesome that these girls are already thinking about engineering and programming as early as elementary school. I never had that opportunity."
"The best products come from people of diverse teams-- gender, origin, education. I want these girls to see how fun this industry is and that there are women just like them at big companies like Microsoft. I want them to know that they can do it," said Julia Foran, Microsoft program manager.