Since 2018, the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship has partnered with Capital One to reach more than 630 middle school girls in North Texas with the Innovate(her) program, a day-long conference that equips middle school girls with science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) skills for higher education and future careers. The program gives the middle schoolers an introduction to several topics, including technology, finance, innovation, and entrepreneurship.
While many girls and boys begin with an equal interest in STEAM, along the way, girls are more likely to become disengaged, and even fewer go on through high school and college to launch a tech career. According to Microsoft, by the time they’re in college, 58% of female students believe that jobs that require programming and coding are “not for them.” Innovate(her) prepares girls with the skills of tomorrow, today, so they can break the barriers of their chosen career.
The Innovate(her) curriculum has multiple dimensions:
- a free one-day conference for middle school girls, held at The University of Texas at Dallas;
- a workbook of modules on technology, design thinking, building confidence, and personal finances created by UT Dallas and Capital One;
- a network of women entrepreneurs, Capital One corporate professionals, and UTD students mentoring and guiding the students through a full-day of interactive, hands-on activities
Innovate(her) participants spend the day with mentors from the community who work in STEAM careers or have started their own companies. The students work alongside them throughout the workshops. The middle schoolers get to hear first-hand how women have overcome challenges and developed their careers or started their businesses. According to Million Women Mentors, women are 50% of the workforce but only 24% of the STEM workforce. Women who are mentored are 2.5 times more likely to be confident in their ability to succeed in school and their careers. We believe this interaction is essential to inspire the girls to think about STEAM careers.
Mentors are recruited through the UT Dallas network of mentors, Capital One’s Business Resource Groups for Women and Women in Technology, and professional organizations in the community. A wide variety of careers and interests are represented so the middle schoolers have an opportunity to meet someone who inspires them.
Each interactive module is one hour and utilizes a “real-life” scenario. The program is continually evaluated to bring in timely examples and skills. In 2020, new topics were added including robotics, ESTEAM career roundtables, careers in esports, entrepreneurship, advanced coding, financial futures, and confidence.
The target audience for Innovate(her) is middle school girls, typically in 6th to 8th grade and 11-14 years of age. The Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at UT Dallas has had similar programs and summer camps over the years but found the one-day conference-style event to be the most effective way of giving the students an introduction to the topics and encourage them to think about entrepreneurship as a career option. The Innovate(her) curriculum was redesigned and updated in 2018 and is continually improved upon to ensure it is relevant, interesting, and effective.
DATES AND REGISTRATION
The next Innovate(her) Conference will take place in February 2022. Please check back for updates.
At Capital One, we embrace the idea that we do well as a company by doing good in the communities we serve. From our inception nearly a quarter-century ago, we have sought to address the long-term health and sustainability of our communities, especially those that are struggling to adapt to a changing economy or recovering from decades of disinvestment. We’re working to design products, services, and programs that deliver impact today and tomorrow.
TalkSTEM is a unique 501(c)3 non-profit organization whose mission is the development of future generations of female and underrepresented STEM leaders. We believe that every child is a STEM child.
“Innovate(her) is an interesting and popular program among my students. We have had the chance to go to this conference for the last few years. Our school 7th and 8th grade, female students look forward to going to this program, every year. This program is designed for our middle school girls to motivate them to look into STEM majors and create interest in studying science and technology.
The program is designed for all level students with different backgrounds. The students actually get to do real programming and coding, during one of their sessions. Then they are guided into planning a future business and acting as young entrepreneurs. They listen to professional accountants, engineers, lawyers, and many other interesting people as they talk about their jobs and challenges. The program is very unique and interesting. It is always well planned and informative. The volunteers do a good job of getting our students excited about going to college. UTD is a wonderful school and has a really cool and modern setup for this conference. The computer lab is amazing.
The next day, my students get to share their observations with the rest of the middle school students. Also, they get to wear cool shirts provided by the program. I think one of the best parts of the program is the fact that my students get to see and hear female professionals from many paths of technology and engineering. They also get to ask their questions from well-educated and informed people. It is also a wonderful lesson for my girls to see that these people volunteer their time and talents. Every year, my students actively work and pursuit of becoming engineers and scientists. With the help of the “Innovate Her”, I can convince my young ladies that it is important for all of us to have female engineers and scientists.”
– Susan A., Math Teacher, Saint Paul the Apostle School
“It was a rare opportunity for my students to be exposed to so many successful entrepreneurs in the metroplex and beyond. The experience helped them see that they could be part of such success in the future and that the only way to get there was by taking their education more seriously and reaching for careers in the STEM fields. Consequently, out of 25 students who attended the workshop, 15 have enrolled in the E-Tech collegiate sponsored by North Lake College.”
– Nsikak O., Counselor, Kennedy Curry Middle School
- Inaugural Innovate(her) conference: Capital One, UT-Dallas partner to promote girls’ interest in STEM, Fort Worth Business Press
- Program Earns Tech Honor, Discover Richardson
- UTD’s Innovate(her) Program Gets Middle School Girls to Learn About STEM-Related Topics, NTX Inno
- Richardson middle schoolers participate in the annual Innovate(her) summit at UT Dallas, Community Impact Newspaper
- Photo Recap: Innovate(her) Conference Sparks Innovative Thinking in Middle School Girls, Dallas Innovates
The following topics are offered at Innovate(her)
Advanced Coding AKA “Bot Camp” – Facilitated by Capital One
In Bot Camp Module 1, you will learn some coding fundamentals like Python, Functions, Loops, and Variables in order to create your own Markov Chain Chat Bot – a virtual bot that communicates like your favorite celebrity using their twitter feed! This is the first of 3 Modules focused on the building blocks of coding. Later Modules include concepts like web scraping and data cleaning building toward having your own bot!
Coders – Facilitated by Capital One
Coders is a program provided by Capital One to expose middle school students to technology by partnering with schools and community leaders to foster a focus on software engineering. During the program, technologists at Capital One introduce two coding languages used frequently in web development. Students learn about HTML, the skeleton of a website. Students also learn about CSS, the code that makes a website look great. By the end of the program, students use the skills they learned about HTML and CSS to create their own website.
College Readiness – Facilitated by the Office of Diversity & Community Engagement, UT Dallas
Are you enrolling in college soon? Don’t know where to start? This session will help you learn more about how to choose the right college, an overview of the steps for college admissions important deadlines you need to know.
Design Thinking – Facilitated by Capital One Design
Thinking is a process for creative problem-solving. In this module, you will complete an activity to gain an understanding of customer empathy, defining problem statements, and iterating on designs based on human needs. After reviewing customer interviews, you will learn to consider their pain points and needs while designing solutions to their problems.
Exploring Entrepreneurship – Facilitated by the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship
Have you ever thought of creating your own business? Join us to understand better how to do it and how to be successful. Come with your ideas of something you have wondered if you could make into a real business!
Financial Foundations – Facilitated by Comet Cents, UT Dallas
Experience budgeting in a completely different way. The interactive, fun game will allow you to put practical experiences to the test. Ready to test it out? Learn about concepts related to budgeting and how to use the skills you learned for your financial future.
Financial Futures – Facilitated by the Financial Leadership Association, UT Dallas
Learn about savings and investments for building a strong financial future. Through a series of short games, students will learn about Risk vs. Return, the Time Value of Money, Value Creation, and why it matters.
Personal Branding: What You Care About & Who You Are – Facilitated by Bri Crow
Just be yourself!” Have you heard this, or been told this as advice? Most of us have, and it’s tough to know just what that means. “Personal branding” might be another one of those phrases that leave us with a question mark. We’ll talk through examples of personal branding in action, I’ll throw out some questions to help you think about what makes you unique and what you’re passionate about; and together, you’ll have an idea of how to stand out by simply being yourself to achieve your future goals.
Preparing for Your First Job Interview – Facilitated by the Naveen Jindal School of Management Career Management Center, UT Dallas
We will teach you tips and tricks to be prepared for your first interviews, learn skills that will help you in any type of interview situation (Jobs, programs, scholarships, and more!)
Robotics – Facilitated by Toyota
Learn the basics about what a robot is and how Toyota uses robots, then code your own robot to write the first letter of your name using the root alphabet.
Story Telling for Communication – Facilitated by Toyota
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but through storytelling we can take the reader on a journey where we connect and draw them in, shaping and strengthening ideas, and building confidence. In this workshop, students will approach storytelling as an art form and as a career-exploration tool. We will review storytelling structure and techniques to help students channel their authentic voices and creativity, the sky’s the limit ideas into inspirational stories they can continue visualizing and shaping into the future.
Logo Love – Facilitated by Whitney Holden
Bring your personal brand to life with a unique logo. In this course, you’ll learn the basics of designing your very own logo using research, design principles, sketching, and Adobe Illustrator.
PROGRAM OUTCOMES AND IMPACT
- Increased participation by girls in entrepreneurship and STEM
- Growth in mentor network participation by women involved in Innovate(her) as well as female UT Dallas students
- Opportunity for more women students at UT Dallas to get program-required service hours and potentially become more interested in entrepreneurship themselves
- A chance to highlight our women student-entrepreneurs as speakers as well as build more corporate/development relationships
Participants are surveyed before the conference and at the end of the conference. The results from the 2020 surveys are as follows:
- 22% increased interest in a career in tech
- 20% increased interest in becoming an entrepreneur
- 36% increased understanding of STEM careers
- 45% increased confidence in personal finance skills
- 34% increased understanding of the design process
In addition, the program grew by more than 250% in middle school participants from 75 to 275 and grew in mentor participation by 200% from 2018 to 2019. The program welcomed several new middle schools in 2020 and offered additional Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math (STEAM) focused workshops increasing the topics from 4 to 10. The participating schools include:
Kennedy Curry Middle School, Dallas
Hector P Garcia Middle School, Dallas
Young Women’s Leadership Academy, Fort Worth
Levine Academy, Dallas
Irma Lerma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School, Dallas
Griffin Middle School, The Colony
Richardson North Junior High School, Richardson
St Paul the Apostle Catholic School, Richardson