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Women in tech inspire CMS girls to make their own magic

Girls work on wearable tech accessories  

At Columbia Middle School, girls are being introduced to core skills necessary for a career in STEM thanks to the Sunnyvale Library’s Make-HER program. The ongoing series of free after school STEM workshops have covered engineering, circuit design, wearable technology, electrical systems, and animation. Three 5-week series were held this year in the fall, winter, and spring.

A group of women who work with technology–or #LadyMakers as the program refers to them–formulate individual workshops for the Make-HER program.

“From the beginning of the Make-HER program, I've always asked instructors to teach what they most love - with an eye to providing a variety of experiences within and across the different series,” said Nancy Andrus, Sunnyvale youth services librarian and Make-HER supporter. “Our Make-HER instructors have become a real cohort of makers - some knew each other previously, some not - and they do lots of brainstorming with each other.”

This winter, #LadyMaker Lauren Cage facilitated the workshop called Circuits and Stories.

"Storytelling is an integral part of the human experience,” Cage explained. “We tell each other stories all day, watch stories on our devices, and when we go to sleep, our brains stay up all night making up stories in the form of dreams.” Stories aren't just told with words, she added.

“They can be experienced through visual effects, creating a feeling of transcendence into a magical world. But at its core, we know that the magic is created by humans who are skilled in STEM techniques such as mechanics and circuitry,” Cage said. “By delving into storytelling and STEM together, the girls explored how to create their own magic."

The young women have been able to design and 3D print their own projects, create their own light-up magical wand, sew circuitry into a wearable accessory, explore puppet mechanics and produce a stop motion animation video using iPads.  

Student works on her dragon puppet during STEM workshop  

Andrus said she was so impressed with the creativity and thoughtfulness of the girls in this series, how persistent they were in working through challenging new technologies, and how much they supported each other in the process.

“There were girls who'd never sewn before, and by the last session they were building circuits into fabric with conductive thread like it was no big deal,” Andrus said. “There are some really strong artists and expressive writers in this group.”

 Girls complete light up wand during maker workshop  

Make-HER was recently awarded a Microsoft/KCI Innovation Award, which honors three exemplary, innovative teacher-student collaborative projects that fully integrate technology and benefit the Silicon Valley educational community.

Lauren Cage is a Gallery Programs Specialist for the Tech Museum of Innovation, where she designs and facilitate hands-on, STEAM programming and workshops, with an emphasis on design challenge learning.  She holds a Master’s degree in Cultural Anthropology and is a co-founder of Tinker Belles.

For more information on the Sunnyvale Make-HER program visit