High School Girls Create Their Own Wearables at MIT Workshop
Mechanical engineer Kristen Railey gathered 50 high
girls at the MIT Lincoln
Laboratory in Lexington, MA, one Saturday in December.
When the researcher who builds and programs military robots for the lab
the students to close their eyes and imagine what an engineer looks
six said they imagined somebody like Railey, a young woman just a few years older
That's exactly why Railey, an MIT engineering
graduate, had organized
the first one-day "Make Your Own Wearables" workshop for teenage girls
Massachusetts Institute for Technology had ever held.
"My goals were to spark girls' interest in
the trendy topic of wearables and to equip them with hands-on
skills before college," said Rainey, who knew about a Verizon study that
that girls who became interested in science, technology, engineering and
mathematics (STEM) early were more likely to pursue it in college.
Railey targeted girls in grades 9-12 for
the first workshop because "girls in this group are applying to college,
picking their freshman classes, declaring majors and thinking about
The day started with an introduction by Katy
Ph.D. candidate at MIT who described her work on a next-generation
foot for amputees in the developing world, and a rundown on the science
Wristify, a bracelet that sends waves of heating and cooling to the
Next, the girls moved on to a 3D printer where they
pairs to create 3D models of the bracelets they had just learned about.
lunch, the teams programmed robots to build peanut butter and jelly
before capping the day off by building a shoe-wearable electronic
LED lights and a pressure sensor. Together, teams created their own
flashed red lights.
"The girls were really amazed that their codes
said. "Their faces lit up as they walked and saw their own shoes
Railey is planning a second workshop this year, this
the main MIT campus in order to attract girls from urban
In the meantime, she will stay in touch with last
participants via social media and the blog on her Web site, Girls Who Build.
Michael Hart is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and the former executive editor of THE Journal.