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.

Target Audience

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.

The Institute believes this programming helps build a diversity pipeline for future entrepreneurs, encourages students to think about success in different ways, and teaches the students essential entrepreneurial skills.

Important Dates

The Innovate(her) conference is scheduled to take place on Friday, February 19, 2021.

We will continue monitoring the COVID-19 situation and may adjust the date or conference delivery format as a result. Please contact Dresden Goldberg with any questions at

Middle School Attendees

We will need the following completed by each school and their students by January 22, 2021:

You may print the surveys here:

Please have students complete them and then email the documents to

Talent Release forms will be sent to schools to have parents complete for their students. We typically hire a photographer for the event. The photographs are used for articles from our two organizations about the event and may be shared on social media. We will ensure the photographer has a way of identifying students who cannot be photographed in close-up photos, but they may appear in wide-angle room shots.

“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 to act 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 set up 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


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. Students learn how to develop their own mobile apps using MIT App Inventor. App Inventor allows students to create apps while learning computational thinking – the critical element of developing software. This open-source tool uses a blocks-based programming language to remove the biggest problem for new learners – syntax. Students focus on learning the big elements of computational thinking: algorithms, abstraction, decomposition, pattern recognition, and generalization… without syntax getting in the way. At the end of the Coders program, the students have an app that they can release to all of their friends and family!

Confidence – Facilitated by the Naveen Jindal School of Management Career Management Center

Confidence is a state of mind. Explore the positive impact of self-confidence on your daily life. Learn to take action, be unafraid of failure, and confidently embrace your authentic self.

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

Careers in Esports – Facilitated by UT Dallas Esports

Esports is an emerging industry that will reach $1.79 billion in revenue within the next two years and has created many viable career paths. Learn about various career options and what it takes to be a part of this industry from esports industry professionals, UT Dallas esports student leaders, and athletes.

ESTEAM Careers – Facilitated by the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, UT Dallas

Meet UT Dallas students and professional Entrepreneurs, Scientists, Technologists, Engineers, Artists, and Mathematicians in this speed networking session. Participate in small group discussions to learn about what it is really like to study or work in these fields and what it takes to have a successful career.

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.

Robotics – Facilitated by the Science & Engineering Education Center, UT Dallas

Robots come in all shapes and sizes, but they share some common functions and features. After being introduced to a few “cool robots,” you will build y our own basic, 3-wheeled robot and program it to move in the environment. Through participation in this activity, you will be able to identify the robotic components, construct a basic robot using LEGO Mindstorms, program basic movements, and determine how the robot responds to stimuli in the environment.

Expected outcomes:

  • 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

Program Impact:

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 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

For more information, please contact:

Denyse Carpio

Assistant to Center Director

Dresden Goldberg

Director Programs & Operations

Campus Director - Blackstone LaunchPad & Techstars