ChichTech events keep evolving, and this was the best one yet! One hundred highschool-age girls for two days at Portland State University in downtown Portland. It really had the flavor of a professional conference with badges, keynote speakers, swag bags, workshops, and breakout sessions. The event kicked off Saturday with a keynote from Michell Rowley, the founder of Code Scouts, who told the ladies not be afraid of making mistakes, and to enlist the help of their friends to learn new things.
Instead of having rotating groups, this time the ladies got to chose one workshop for the whole event. There were morning and afternoon session of two hours each meaning we got a total of eight hour to help fifteen girls learn, design, and build an embedded microcontroller fashion project. Other groups were working on robotics, building computers, and designing websites.
We used the LilyPad USB for the controller and had buttons and light sensors for the inputs and LEDs and a speaker for outputs. The components were soldered to small breakout boards made for us by OSH Park to make it easy to sew and get good electrical connection. The girls picked up soldering very quickly, even with the use of lead-free solder which has a higher melting point.
It was amazing how fast time flies when you are involved in an engaging project. By lunch, we had learned how to upload a program and make the on-board LED blink. After lunch they had a short project of creating a USB bracelet which came in handy to save code examples on. They returned to our workshop and by the end of the first day, they had basic designs laid out and tested with alligator clip.
As a canvas to work with, the girls got a tote bag. They could either incorporate the electronics in the design, or hide them on the underside of the flap. One girl brought a hand made felt hat to modify, and another brought a plushie heart. The girls were amazingly creative with their designs.
For the final hour of the event there was a Tech Show where the girls got to show off their hard work to friends and family. It was exciting to see them explain to others what they had learned from the workshop. Hopefully we gave them the skills and interest to keep working on the project at home, or start another project using the LilyPad!
One of the most rewarding experiences of the event for me was getting a thank you note from one of the girls which contained a binary-encoded ASCII message that said I was "awesome"! To that I would reply: "0b1010111, 0b1100101, 0b0100000, 0b1100101, 0b1101110, 0b1101010, 0b1101111, 0b1111001, 0b1100101, 0b1100100, 0b0100000, 0b1101000 ,0b1100001, 0b1110110, 0b1101001, 0b1101110, 0b1100111, 0b0100000, 0b1111001, 0b1101111, 0b1110101, b0100000, 0b1101001, 0b1101110, 0b0100000, 0b1110100, 0b1101000, 0b1100101,0b0100000, 0b1110111, 0b1101111, 0b1110010, 0b1101011, 0b1110011, 0b1101000, 0b1101111, 0b1110000, 0b0100001".
I predict great things for these ladies, in any endeavor they choose to pursue!