This blog was written by David Patrick, Office Apps & Services MVP. David and his daughter, Sarah, share their adventures in teaching young women a variety of computer related technologies. Through a program called TechGirlz, David and Sarah have been running workshops designed to inspire the next generation of young women to get and stay interested in STEM, to help bridge the gender gap that exists in these fields today.
TechGirlz is an organization whose mission is to inspire girls to explore the possibilities of technology. My daughter Sarah has a geeky Dad (me) who always knew that she could do anything that she wanted to do. But Sarah and I realized that there are many girls out there that are interested in technology, but as they get older, lose confidence in their technology skills and thus lose interest in the technology field. We wanted to help these young women keep and build their confidence in using technology. We wanted them to be inspired to pursue their interest in technology and give them role models to look up to. By volunteering for TechGirlz, we have been able to help these young women with their journeys in tech.
The TechGirlz organization provides “TechShopz in a Box”, which are freely available STEM based activities that volunteers like my daughter and I use to run workshops for the girls. There are many workshops to choose from, building websites, podcasting, hardware exploration, game design and many more!
For the last five years, Sarah and I, along with several professional women from my company, DSA, Inc. have been conducting these TechGirlz workshops, originally face to face at the Harford County Boys & Girls Clubs, and more recently virtually using Microsoft Teams to anyone from around the world.
Sarah kicked off our first afterschool program back in April 2016 by presenting the TechGirlz workshop called "Make a Website Using WordPress". Sarah had the girls build unique and custom websites. Despite our initial fears of the workshops being perceived as extra homework, that first session was a smashing success! Girls were excited by the power they had to design their own websites from the ground up. Some created websites about their passions, like sports and music, others geared towards making money, and even one about social injustice. The level of excitement that the girls displayed was surprising and it not only showed how inspired they were, but their enthusiasm was truly infectious and it inspired us!
We realized that these young ladies had no fear of technology once they were introduced to it and shown the many possibilities of what it can do. The toughest part was stopping these young ladies from continuing their work when the workshop ended. They wanted so badly to keep going!
Other workshops we ran included “What’s in a Computer”, where the girls tore apart computers to see what makes them tick. It was awe-inspiring to see these girls at first, very tentative and afraid that they might get electric shocked or that they might break something, but then, once we reassured them and explained the safety measures taken, they dove in headfirst, sometimes literally, to explore and discover and learn what the hardware components were and how computers worked at this level. Again, the girls had to be pulled back and stopped when the workshop was over because they were so energized by the learning and discovery.
TechGirlz has been a very fulfilling program to run. Seeing the girls go from unsure to enthused really made us feel like we were doing something important.
The ironic thing is this, I wanted to help the girls to not be afraid of technology, but in fact, I was afraid. Afraid that the tasks I perform in my daily job might not matter in the big picture. I was afraid that my life might not be meaningful. But by helping these girls overcome their fear, I also, have overcome mine.
The TechGirlz workshops help everyone, the girls, the volunteers, and the future employers who will get these valuable assets to help them build great things. I am hopeful we can continue to do these workshops and can spread the word to others about how beneficial they are and get more volunteers involved.
So here’s our Call to Action. Volunteer! Help out! Check out the volunteer opportunities and see if you can inspire courage, not only in others, but also in yourself.
I know now that the things I do matter and make a difference. Helping these girls has helped me immensely. And my daughter Sarah, well, she also has grown a ton and learned a lot from the girls. She has become more confident in leading workshops, giving talks, and organizing her own events. Going forward, we have exciting plans to run more workshops, summer and winter camps, and we are even developing our own workshops. One workshop we have already finished is called “Intro to Collaboration with Microsoft Teams”, where we teach the girls how to collaborate virtually using Microsoft Teams. We completed this workshop and delivered it a few times right before the pandemic hit in March 2020. Since then, we have had to pivot from our in-person workshops to fully virtual workshops and this workshop helped prepare our girls with using tools like Teams. It was amazing how quickly the girls were able to learn to use Teams for meeting and chatting so that they can continue their learning of STEM technologies virtually.
Inspiring others truly ends up inspiring yourself.
To hear more from me and Sarah and our different perspectives around tech, check out our new video series, Patrick Perspective!
Be sure to check out David's past blog, Being Inspired by Helping Others
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