Techbridge Provides Girls and Young Women Role Models in STEM

techbridge“Role models can have profound and lasting impact. I know because our Techbridge girls have returned years later to share that it was because of a role model they met in middle school or on a field trip they took in high school that they reimagined their futures and themselves. I have seen these girls completely captivated by activities like programming video games, taking apart hairdryers to learn how they work, and soldering circuits. But as good as these activities are, they are not enough. While girls have fun doing hands-on projects, their enjoyment does not translate into a career interest. It takes role models who live the joys of STEM and who can share their passion and personal story to inspire girls in STEM studies and careers. Our girls and role models helped us develop our “recipe for success” to support role models. With training, role models learn how to tell a personal story and communicate passion for their work, how to offer academic guidance, and how to manage behavior when you’ve got a roomful of fifth graders. We are ever grateful to each and every role model who has volunteered time to give back and inspire our girls.”

– Linda Kekelis

CEO/Executive Director, Techbridge

Techbridge is an award-winning nonprofit devoted to empowering girls to change the world through science, technology and engineering. Our innovative after-school and summer programs inspire 5th through 12th grade girls from underserved communities to pursue STEM careers and other dreams through hands-on projects, role models and field trips. Our proven data-driven model also builds confidence, problem-solving skills, perseverance, and public speaking abilities that serve them in any career. Building on 15 years of experience, Techbridge has served over 14,000 girls through after-school programs and partnerships with other organizations such as Girls Scout Councils and Society of Women Engineers. Awards and recognition include Silicon Valley Education Foundation’s national award for innovations in science education (2012), National Center for Women & Information Technology’s Educator Award (2014), inclusion in Fundacion Telefonica’s “Top 100 Educational Innovations” (2014), winning participant in White House US2020 Competition, and East Bay Innovation Award for Education (2014).

Techbridge strongly believes that personal exposure to STEM role models is critical for girls to develop the interest and confidence to pursue a STEM career. While it’s ideal for girls to develop a close ongoing mentorship relationship, evidence shows that even short-term personal interaction with role models can deeply impact them. For its 15-year history, Techbridge’s programs have centered on connecting girls to STEM role models with careers spanning a multitude of industries from software development to civil engineering to biotechnology. In the past 5 years, Techbridge has also poured our knowledge and experience into developing resources and trainings that enhance the STEM role model outreach efforts of other organizations, supporting a wide range of partners including National Girls Collaborative Project, Society of Women Engineers, Girl Scout Councils, US Department of Energy and other federal STEM workers. Techbridge’s unique resources and trainings boost the success of role models through techniques and best practices shared with individual role models, and on a broader scale, organizations that run role model programs.

In 2014, Techbridge impacted nearly 3,000 STEM role models by connecting them to elementary and high school girls through field trips, after-school visits and Techbridge online and in-person role model trainings. In addition to the role models engaged in Techbridge after-school programs, our Role Models Matter project, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), works with Girl Scout Councils, National Girls Collaborative Project, and Society of Women Engineers to support them in their efforts to connect STEM role models to girls.  Techbridge also develops and hosts the open-source, online Role Models Matter Toolkit, a valuable resource designed to support organizations with role model and mentoring programs, as well as any individual who wants to be a role model.  The Role Models Matter Toolkit includes video examples of role models in action demonstrating best practices in STEM outreach as well as ideas for engaging activities such as icebreakers and hands-on STEM projects.

We have learned so much over the past 15 years about what it takes for role models to be effective. We are now looking to partner with more groups to share our resources and lessons learned. Through the NSF Role Models Matter project, Techbridge plans to impact thousands more role models (and girl-serving groups who want to engage role models) nationwide through dissemination of trainings, the Role Models Matter Toolkit, print role model guides, and conference presentations.

To further our reach and impact we are expanding our programs nationally. With support from NSF, we recently launched a hub of programs in Greater Seattle, and are now preparing to launch programs in Washington, DC this fall. To inspire the girls participating in those after-school programs, we’re working to build up a dynamic network of role models in the Pacific Northwest and DC areas.

We’re focused on diversity, to ensure we have a pool of role models that is as culturally and ethnically diverse as the girls in our Techbridge programs. Techbridge is collecting data and setting goals on the demographics of our role models, which will help us better understand our progress and learn what’s working as well as how we can improve.

In particular, we’re actively seeking to engage more Black and Hispanic women in STEM professions to serve as role models to Techbridge girls. (If you fit that bill, please contact us!)

We want every girl (and boy) throughout the country to be inspired by STEM and expand their options through the role models they meet. Whether it is through our programs directly serving Techbridge girls, or through partnerships supporting the role model efforts of other organizations, Techbridge aims to catalyze a dramatic rise in the number of women actively serving as STEM role models and inspiring girls to change the world.

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