By Nan Acharya, Co-Chair / Tech Challenge
On November 17th, 2015, the Junior League of Palo Alto Mid-Peninsula, in cooperation with the Tech Museum of Innovation, San Jose and two peninsula schools, Synapse School and Charter Connect, launched its signature Girls in STEM project with a training for girls and League volunteers on the Tech Challenge. The Tech Challenge Committee (co-chaired by Kate Thome and Nandini Acharya) was on hand to welcome 15 League women, representatives from the Tech Museum and girls in grades 3-5 from Synapse School and Charter Connect. The purpose of the event was two-fold, to introduce the girls to the Tech Challenge and to train the League and parent mentors on how to best guide and encourage the girls (without doing the work for them!).
First, Abby Longcor, Director of the Tech Challenge at the Tech Museum reviewed with the girls how the challenge works, the timeline, the theme (flight!) and core requirements. Ms. Longcor emphasized the importance of planning and the role of experimentation and trial and error (emphasis on having fun and not being afraid to try out innovative ideas). The Tech Museum even set up a mock version of the test course to help the girls visualize the event. After reviewing the guidelines for the Challenge and answering some great questions from the girls, the girls engaged in a hand- on mini challenge involving creating a flying object and shepherding "Ant-man"in it across a short course. It was fantastic to see the interest sparked in the girls and the enthusiasm with which they embarked on the mini-challenge. Afterwards, the girls were given the opportunity to form teams and sign up to participate.
The second half of the evening involved an engaging session again led by Ms. Longcor designed to prepare the League and parent volunteers to take on the role of an effective Tech Challenge team mentor. Ms. Longcor reviewed techniques and strategies to engage the girls, spark innovation and creativity, help them organize and project-plan but let them do the creative and scientific work. All in all, it was a fantastic event and the League, the Tech Challenge Committee and the schools are poised to launch weekly mentoring sessions at Synapse School for the girls starting in January and running through the Tech Challenge Day on April 23, 2016 at the Tech Museum. The League will underwrite the entrance and participation costs and purchase supplies for the girls. We can't wait to take flight!