Making STEM Accessible for Girls

What do a group of girls, a bunch of cardboard, and the mobile game Flappy Bird have to do with closing the gender gap in STEM education?

To understand the answer to that question, first you’ll need to understand what making is and the work of our organization, Maker Education Initiative (Maker Ed).

People define making in many different ways, but at Maker Ed, we like to think of it as an open-ended, student-interest driven process of hands-on building, creating, and learning. We see making as a process that promotes a mindset of exploration, collaboration, and inclusivity. In other words, we believe you don’t need to be an expert to make something, you don’t have to make something that works to be able to learn from the experience, and anyone can find something that they love to make.

Maker Ed works with educators in youth-serving organizations nationwide to create more opportunities for all young people to develop confidence, creativity, and interest in STEM, arts, and learning as a whole through making. One organization that we’ve worked with is L.A.-based DIY Girls, which participated in Maker Ed’s Maker Corps program last year. DIY Girls works to increase girls’ interest and success in engineering and technology through afterschool and summer making programs for girls from 5th grade through high school.

Luz Rivas, the Founder and Executive Director of DIY Girls, recently shared a story of a making project that truly impressed her –– one that, in our minds, epitomizes the spirit of making and demonstrates its powerful potential for engaging girls in STEM subjects.

One of Luz’s students had told Luz about one of her favorite mobile games, Flappy Bird. One day, she was suddenly struck with the idea to create a real life version of the game. She recruited a small group of her friends, and over the next few weeks they collaborated to make her vision a reality. Working with cardboard and electronic materials, they ended up building an elaborate, table-sized version of the game with cardboard pipes that they wired to make a buzzing noise when hit.

Through the process of making this project, these girls not only learned about engineering and electronics, but they did so in a way that was relevant to them, that required teamwork and collaboration, and that engaged their creative energy and natural talents. (In fact, the project was such a success that Luz and her team began to incorporate a “Make Your Own App” week into their program, so that other girls could make their favorite apps come to life too.)

Engaging students on their own terms, and giving them the opportunity to explore their creative passions while learning throughout the process –– this is what making is all about, and why it is such a powerful outlet for girls to build interest and confidence in STEM subjects.

About the author:

Briana Flin is the Communications Manager for the Maker Education Initiative, where she assists in producing Maker Ed’s digital media and communications. Prior to joining Maker Ed, Briana worked in the multimedia communications field. She has completed two internships at film production companies, worked as a blogger for a design firm, and served as an outreach associate for a documentary film. Briana attended UC Berkeley, where she received a BA in Peace and Conflict Studies, and completed a minor in English.

Become part of the conversation at Pearson’s STEM Ed Series, Closing the Gender Gap, held February 19-21, 2015. Located at the Fairmont San Jose & Google Campus in Silicon Valley, California, educators and industry leaders will discuss ideas and programs to help close the gap in STEM education and STEM careers with a focus on technology. More information about the event including registration can be found here: