Twelve young women from San Fernando High School in California have created a solar-powered tent to serve the growing homeless population in the San Fernando Valley. Daniela Orozco and her classmates noticed the stunning increase in people living on the streets in San Fernando, a city located 20 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. They wanted to act. “Because we come from low-income families ourselves, we can’t give them money,” Orozco told Mashable. With the help of DIY Girls, the young women invented a solar-powered tent, which folds into a backpack, to serve the people struggling with homelessness in their community.
Founded in 2012, DIY Girls began its work with 35 girls in an elementary school classroom. In 2016, it served 650 young female students from schools, elementary through high, all over Los Angeles County. Due to high demand made on the small organization, DIY Girls currently has a wait-list for its much-needed services. Only 27 percent of the STEM workforce is female, and only 6 percent of current female scientists are Hispanic or Latina. “When I was getting my [aerospace engineering] master’s degree, I was often the only girl in the class and definitely the only Latina in the class,” DIY Girls executive director Evelyn Gomez told Mashable. “It felt like kind of impostor syndrome.” Familiar with the challenges faced by young women of color, Gomez now serves as a guide for the next generation of female scientists and engineers.
Despite not having much practical STEM experience, the young women at San Fernando quickly acquired a wide spectrum of skills through their self-guided learning. If they encountered an issue in a code or circuit, they sought out resources online to solve the problem. “You’re learning new things you’ve never even heard of or even thought of,” Chelly Chavez, who learned the C++ programming language to refine the tent’s functionality, told Mashable. To further develop their work, the young women were awarded a $10,000 grant from the Lemelson-MIT Program. The team hopes that their accomplishments will inspire other young women to seize the scientific spirit. “[There are] only two junior girls in our AP Calculus class, which has way more guys than girls,” Paola Valtierra told Mashable, “But we’re gonna change that.”
Images via DIY Girls