Girl Advisory Board Member Helps Bridge the Gender Gap and Fundraises Using 3D Printer Cookie Cutters

Contributed by Lilia B.

To honor Computer Science Education Week and the holidays I would like to share with you a little about what I’m thankful for. One year ago, the National Girls Collaborative Project formed a Girls Advisory Board, also known as the YoGA (Young Girls Advisory) Board, and I was lucky enough to have been chosen to become a member. We have Lilia B.monthly video meetings run by co-chairs Lauren Scofield, Olivia Pavco-Giaccia, and Pooja Chandrashekar who also act as our mentors. The co-chairs provide structure, inspiration, and feedback that not only keeps our meetings productive but also drives our initiatives and goals on an ongoing basis. The Advisory Board is made up of a dynamic group of high school STEM enthusiasts from across the country. We are committed to helping bridge the gender gap through working together to build a larger community of young female STEM enthusiasts.

The misperception that men are more suited for STEM still holds its grip on society and continues to contribute to the gender bias. Studies have shown that the main factor still inhibiting the advancement of women is our feelings of inadequacy and lack of confidence. I was never told that I’m not good at math or science, yet I still realized something was amiss when I took computer programming classes outside of school and found I was the only girl (no one in my class knew where the key was to the girl’s bathroom… I was the first to ask). I’m lucky to have grown up in a supportive environment with the YoGA Board serving as both a peer and mentor group. Nothing has reinforced my passion for STEM more than knowing I have a strong group of girls and mentors who share my interests, support my efforts, and build my confidence. 

Tech CookiesTo help bridge the gender gap in computer science I created CodewithLilia.org where I teach girls the coding basics to help spark their interest. My website functions as a teaching workshop that I present to afterschool girls programs and make peer-to-peer connections. I combine fun coding exercises with female related tech facts that helps generate interest in computer science and builds confidence in girls. My goal is not so much to teach girls to code but to teach girls they CAN code. I’m trying to be a “relatable role model.” I’m doing what other young girls CAN do and I’m hoping they can relate to me and that gives them the confidence to try. I’m promoting the message “If girls can do in middle school and high school that which society has said only boys can or should do, then as women we will be able to do all the things that men have prevented us from doing for the rest of our lives.”

3D PrinterOne of our recent YoGA Board projects, campaigning for the GlamourGals Foundation’s holiday fundraiser #Dough4Good, lead me to combine my personal and social interests. #Dough4Good seeks to end elder isolation, which is especially difficult during the holidays, through hosting cookie exchanges. The YoGA Board members decided to bake cookies that were also related to our passion for STEM. When I couldn’t find any STEM related cookie cutters, I decided to make my own using TinkerCad and 3D printing. I had so much fun with the project, and think other girls will as well, that I’m now taking it a step further by creating a 3D printer cookie cutter workshop for CodewithLilia.org. Who doesn’t want to create custom cookie cutters and bake cookies?!?!

This Computer Science Education Week (Dec 3-9) I’m giving thanks for The National Girls Collaborative Project and the YoGA Board for giving me a community with which to share my interests and passions. In return, I have developed the confidence to share my tech knowledge and enthusiasm with other girls which further expands our female STEM community. In supporting each other, we will continue to dissolve the deep-rooted gender bias that holds women back from the largest economic growth sector in the world.

Code with Lilia LogoLilia B. is a 17 year old junior in Bryn Mawr, PA. She is on the Girls Advisory Board for the National Girls Collaborative Project and is the founder of CodewithLilia.org where she is on a mission to expand computer science to young girls.