Catwalk Coding: Maureen B. Combines Love for Fashion and STEM to Close the Gender Gap
Gold Award Girl Scout Maureen, 17, from Girl Scouts of Kansas Heartland, designed and created fashion accessories called “illumicize” that progressively light up in response to increases in heart rate. But that was just the beginning. She also went on to host a series of Catwalk Coding camps—instructional courses designed to attract low-income girls to STEM fields. At the all-girl camps, attendees constructed scaled-down versions of illumicize by creating and coding their own illuminating accessory. At the end of the five-day camps, the girls got to show off their skills on a blinking runway fashion show in front of their friends and family—NICE! They also learned electrical and coding skills directly from women working in STEM fields. Now that’s how you close a gender gap in STEM!
Maureen's goal is to ensure that girls get the chance to embrace their inner engineer—while satisfying their inner fashionista, too! Her invention was showcased to President Obama at the White House Science Fair in 2016, and she even received grants from National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) to host the camps.
This G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader)™ can’t stop, won’t stop. Here’s what she had to say about her Gold Award project, and what Girl Scouting means to her!
Q: What does your Gold Award mean to you? Why did you pick this topic?
A: I’ve always been really into fashion. I’ve always worn big bows, sequins, and big tutus with all my friends. And I’ve always learned, from a young age, that fashion can really bring a group together. What I also noticed is that I was always really into STEM, but my girlfriends weren’t really into it as well. So what I decided to do was to combine the two [fashion and STEM] as a way to close the gender gap in STEM.
Q: What is the biggest obstacle you faced in completing your Gold Award project?
A: When I started my camp, I was pretty naive. I didn’t realize
that a lot of kids really rely on the free lunch programs at school,
and I didn’t realize that a lot of kids have learning disabilities, so
I really had to learn to adapt. I had to circulate around the room and
explain it to them maybe once, twice, or three times. But I just had
to overcome that, and adapt to their needs.
Q: Where are you now, and what are your plans for the future?
A: Currently, I am a senior in high school. I am homeschooled,
but I also take college classes at the local university. I’m looking
at colleges now, and starting on my applications. I’m hoping to major
in something medical, but I also really want to still work on closing
the gender gap in STEM, whether that be working in STEM myself, or
helping other girls get there.
Q: What does Girl Scouts mean to you?
A: A huge part of Girl Scouts is confidence. It’s girls building up other girls. And so, that’s really what my project is. I help other girls build themselves up so that they can face the problems that we are facing currently in the world. Without Girl Scouts, I wouldn’t have had the courage to reach out to a mentor. I wouldn’t have had the courage to apply for a grant. I wouldn’t have had the courage to stand up in front of 25 girls, staring at me, and teach them how to solder. I wouldn’t have had the courage to have them hold a 750 degree piece of metal two inches from my finger as they created their project.
From my leaders, to Daisies powering me up, making me feel like a role model, to the older girls being a role model to me, and the inspirations I have as my leaders, I’ve always looked up to everyone in my Girl Scout group, and the lessons I’ve learned from every single girl, I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life.
Q: Which part of G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker. Leader)™ do you most identify with?
A: Thanks to Girl Scouts, I would say that I am a little bit of everything. I’m a go-getter, I’m an innovator, I’m a risk-taker, and I’m a leader, but more so I would say I’ve excelled in leadership thanks to my Gold Award project. Every single second has been a new lesson in leadership, and every single time a girl has hugged me, or watched her accessory light up, has really taught me the feeling of giving back.