Tech needs more women.
Now, that concern has become the mantra for Jewelbots, an NYC-based customisable-by-code accessories startup, which sees the deficit as an opportunity for young girls interested in tech.
“Girls love expressing themselves through customisation,” says Sara Chipps, now co-founder and CEO at Jewelbots, which started last fall.
Chipps, and her COO Brooke Moreland, a fashion enthusiast-turned-tech entrepreneur, plan to raise $US1.5 million by this fall to engage young girls in computer science.
Right now, the US is seeing the lowest number of women studying computer since the mid-’80s, when more than 37% of computer science degree recipients were women, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. In 2012, a mere 18% of computer science graduates were women.
If the trend continues the US could face an even bigger problem in 2020, when the Bureau of Labour Statistics estimates there will be 1.4 million new computer science positions and a lack of graduates in the field to fill the demand.
On Wednesday, July 8, Jewelbots, which only launched last fall, began a Kickstarter campaign for the smart jewellery at the core of their company. The campaign will run until August 4th, with a fundraising goal of $US30,000. Donations come with perks, including bracelets, 50% discounts and private coding classes with the founder of Girl Develop It.
“Media separates femininity from technology and engineering,” Chipps told Business Insider. “Being girly and being an engineer is exciting.
The start-up has also opened registration for a series of Bring Your Daughter to Hack Weekend events.
Hackathons were held in both San Francisco and New York City with sights on Washington, D.C., to host the next event of its kind. Among the sponsors were Microsoft, Andreessen Horowitz, and littleBits. All proceeds went to Girls Who Code, a non-profit geared towards closing the gender gap in the technology sector.
We stopped by the hackathon at the Stack Exchange in Manhattan to see Jewelbots’ vision of a future with more women in coding.
Meet Chipps and Moreland, who worked together at the 4-year-old startup, Fashism, before it closed in 2013. Chipps, who had the idea for Jewelbots, is former CTO of the FlatIron School for students in web development and co-founder of Girl Develop It, a non-profit that connects women interested in web and software development with resources.
More than 110 coders as young as five years old and their parents gathered to hack away at wearable technologies, tinkering with circuits and programming hardware.
Each participant received an Arduino GEMMA kit to program to use on wearable technologies and access to a littleBits set which enables beginners to tinker with hardware.
littleBits are best described as magnetic and electronic building blocks, which, when snapped together help creators with little-to-no experience with electronics make any do-it-yourself project from treat dispensers to a clap-activated light.
Instead of building circuits from scratch, all bits and pieces are labelled to simplify the process of making a circuit.
This 4-year-old and her dad built a keyboard and speakers from littleBits pieces, including an input, power, keyboard, oscillator, output, and speakers pieces. When she played the keyboard and turned the knob connected to the speakers, she was able to hear a range of frequencies.
Participants learned how to use their new tools with a wearables workshop, which covered everything about the 'tiny but mighty' computer built onto their circuit boards, from its functionalities to how to sew designs. For those interested in making websites, there was also a workshop teaching girls to use CSS and HTML to build a custom Tumblr.
Volunteers came from a large range of computer science backgrounds from consulting, medical devices companies and students interested in web development. Quymbee Chen, a 17-year-old who said she has been mentored by Chipps for two years and volunteering at the event, plans to pursue a computer science degree after graduating from high school.
The girl pictured below won The Heart Award for her sweater design. Another tech-enthused participant designed a light-up belt across the waistline of her dress. Other prizes included an Xbox One and littleBits.
The company already has prototypes for its product, which is open source and allows for changes in the code. The retail price is $65.
The friendship bracelet equipped with LED lights and a motor which can be programmed using simple if-and-then statements to link it to the iPhone and buzz for updates and interact with other bracelets of its kind.
To satiate the young inventors, there were more than enough savoury nuggets and mac-and-cheese served for lunch.
As hackers wrapped up with their projects, they received a pleasant surprise: face painting. We saw one young hacker transform into Iron Man.
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