Megan, a 2019 National Gold Award Girl Scout, tells us how she’s turned nearly 9,000 girls into the engineers of our future.
I love technology and always have, but sticking with it hasn’t always been easy. When I went to my first tech camp in fifth grade, I walked into a room of 20 boys with only one other girl in sight. It was like, do I belong here? Of course, I did, but being one of just two girls made me feel hesitant and nervous in a way that didn’t feel good.
I wanted to make a difference in my community and earn my Girl Scout Gold Award, so the clear path for me was to give girls a different experience in tech than I had—to give them support and show them that they do belong and that tech fields aren’t simply open to them but need them.
I’d already started my nonprofit, GearUp4Youth, when I was in middle school to show girls how much fun they could have with technology. It was challenging at first to figure out what kind of activities girls could get the most out of and what they’d like the most—many girls aren’t raised going to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) events from the time they’re little like I was, so my workshops were their first taste of this world.
But over time, the coding classes I had first offered expanded into full-on robotics activities where girls can do things like program a helicopter robot to rescue a panda. Walking into a classroom and trying to win a bunch of young people over can be tricky, but seriously, if you involve a panda and make it fun, you’re going to have a lot of interested girls on your hands!
So far, with the help of volunteers (I have more than 170 incredible volunteers across the world!), GearUp4Youth has reached more than 8,500 girls and a total of more than 17,000 young people overall. Plus, my high school counselor recommended me to speak on a panel at the United Nations, where I got to talk to international policymakers about how they could best support girls in STEM and build a network of influential and powerful women, including Her Royal Highness Dr. Nisreen El-Hashemite, who helped create the International Day of Women and Girls in Science.
The coolest things that have happened in my life so far have been a direct result of going for my Gold Award, but really nothing tops that feeling of seeing another girl really click with robotics the way I did when I was younger. Hopefully the girls I’ve worked with will keep exploring STEM and, together, we can transform the tech industry.