Spotlight: Eureka! building confidence and skills in STEM – Grace’s story

Grace – Eureka! program participant

High-Tech High Heels currently funds Eureka!, a STEM-based program through Girls Inc. Dallas. Eureka! is an intensive, five-year STEM-based program that builds girls’ confidence and skills through hands-on opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math. Utilizing a “whole girl” approach, the program also includes sports and physical fitness, personal development, and college and career readiness. In addition to the summer component, during the school year there are monthly events, activities and field trips. Find more information here.

We interviewed Grace, a junior in high school that has participated in the program for four years. Girls Inc. Dallas has provided a safe place for Grace to go after school since she was eight years old.

Her mother enrolled her in the STEM-based program Eureka! prior to 8th grade. Grace shared that she a hard time with math at the time, but was strong in science. Through the years, she feels the program has helped her with both. “I now feel confident that I’ll get better over time. The best thing I’ve learned was about the periodic table of elements during my first year. It truly helped me pass my chemistry exam in school!” she said. Her first experience with the program was a STEM camp at Richland College, where it has stuck with her that the professors treated them like college students.

The program includes sports and physical fitness, personal development, and college and career readiness. When asked about her favorite aspect, Grace shared: “I like the personal development. Each year, we mature, so the way we do and view things are different. It challenges me and gives me new insights on things and ideas I’d never think of.”

Grace has had many hands-on experiences with STEM throughout her four years in the program. She reflected on a few of the most memorable: “We’ve flown rocket ships, and then there’s my personal favorite: the cooking-themed science experiments! We’ve made dough (YES, COOKING DOUGH!), peanut butter, marshmallow spread, and some neat candy!”

Going into the third year of the program, she did not know what she wanted to do as a career. During the summer, she had an internship with Pioneer Oil Company, where she was mentored in Human Resourcing and event planning. “Easy to say I fell in love, just with being able to go to meetings, plan events, and communicate,” she shared. This past summer, Grace participated in SAT prep and had the opportunity to hear from many inspiring women: “Eureka! is giving me resources, and being able to have guests talk to us lets me see the other world of business and communications.” When asked about the future, Grace noted: “When I go to college, I want to study communications, while pursuing a career in Human Resources.”

Outside of school and Girls Inc. programs, Grace gives back to the community through volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House. She also enjoys praise dance at church and school and shopping with her friends.Grace left with us these inspirational words about what she has learned being a part of Eureka!: “STEM really is doable! It made me feel more confident in school, and STEM in general.”

We wish Grace the best of luck in her final year of Eureka! and beyond.


Spotlight: SMARTgirls featuring some brilliant women from HTHH

Excitement for STEM can spark anywhere, at any time; most often it’s the school classroom where girls are first introduced- and summer break is no exception! On a sunny Friday in June, High Tech High Heels members helped bring the classroom to life by attending the SMARTgirls Xtreme STEM Camp at Wylie High School. There, they put on a lively panel discussion about Women in Technology with the 7th, 8th and 9th grade girls. Featuring some of High Tech High Heels brightest members, Jeannette Bennett, Lynn Mortensen, Vicky Rupp, Molly Sing and Hasini Sundaresan, the campers learned each woman’s personal journey to a career in technology. Each woman answered great questions about what it’s like to be an engineer, shared how the professionals got to their current positions, and expressed what they love about engineering and technology.

High Tech High Heels has been a passionate sponsor of SMARTgirls, an organization focused on getting girls interested in, and staying interested in, science and math.  They use hands-on STEM activities and guest speakers from an array of STEM professions to engage and encourage girls to peak their interest. Beyond peaking interest, SMARTgirls hopes to enable girls with the resources to become engage confidently in high level math and science courses throughout high school and college. SMARTgirls offers after school activities at all Wylie ISD intermediate schools, Saturday clubs for junior highs, and summer camps on a variety of STEM topics.



Spotlight: HTHH supports all-girls team at World FIRST Robotics competition

High Tech High Heels had the exciting opportunity to sponsor the Hockabots from The Hockaday School at the World FIRST Robotics competition in Houston, held April 18-21, 2018. The team had the opportunity to compete at the World level after advancing from the regional competition.

See highlights below from the Robotics coach, Laura Baker:

“The girls performed very well. They were in the top 16 teams out of 109 teams in five of the nine awards categories. They finished 43rd in the robot game with their highest score of the year. Their goal was to finish in the top 50 teams in the game and they did! The judges and referees commented on their poise, intelligence, and calm demeanor under pressure. The judges also liked their innovative attachments. These attachments included a track that slid back and forth to complete four missions in under 30 seconds. They also created a cart that slid off of the robot and then carried a piece across the board. The booth was also a big hit. They had a white board and Polaroid camera. Teams from all over the world took pictures and posted them on the board with little messages and pictures. They had disco music playing – it was very festive!”

She went on to state that the group is expecting 10-20 returning and new members to join for the next year, and are also planning STEM programs and activities involving multiple ages and grade levels. Baker also mentioned that they expect to have three to five teams compete at next year’s competition, as well.

This team and competition, which teaches girls engineering skills and programming, exemplifies High Tech High Heels mission to engage in STEM events and enable young girls to take on careers in the industry.

Find out how you can help HTHH support girls’ teams in the future in fun STEM events like this!

Spotlight: Persistence Development Foundation inspiring girls with CodeSLAM

This month’s spotlight highlights one of our recent grant recipients, Persistence Development Foundation.  Persistence Development Foundation focuses on “improving lives of individuals in underserved communities (geographic and/or economic) in the north Texas region by closing the digital divide and addressing digital literacy issues through computer coding instruction and certification training.”

High Tech High Heels is proud to support the foundation’s out-of-school program, CodeSLAM, which “introduces students to basic web development, app development and game creation.” These programs will further help to expose girls in north Texas to STEM careers and the industry by getting them engaged in coding programs. We talked to Harold Strong, from the foundation to discuss the importance and impact of these coding programs.

We are looking forward to help in making CodeSLAM available and accessible to all girls in north Texas!

Q: How was Persistence Development Foundation started? What inspired the foundation’s mission?

The motivation for Persistence Development Foundation is to assist under resourced families to become digitally engaged and become [part] of the growing digital community.   As the Dallas Smart City initiative is to “leverage technology in becoming an inclusive, connected and efficient city focused on improving the quality of life of our citizens”, PDF’s mission is to improve the lives of individuals in underserved communities (geographic and/or economic) in the north Texas region by closing the digital divide and addressing digital literacy issues through computer coding instruction and certification training.

Q: What drove the need for CodeSLAM programs in north Texas?

The CodeSLAM program began as a tool to assist middle school students to actively participate and engage at the Dallas Park & Recreation Teen Tech Center makerspace without being taught or instructed on how to use the technology in the space.  The basic CodeSLAM program offers three coding experiences including (1) creating a website, (2) creating an app and (3) creating a game in Android and SWIFT environments. This program serves as a great introduction to computer coding and provides a very fast, efficient foundation for future coding experiences.  For the Teen Tech Center, the students were provided coding hints to assist in successfully exploring the fun and power of creating games, social media sites and applications through the use of the provided computing equipment in the center.  As a result, traffic to the Teen Tech Center grew as more students (and neighboring Recreation Centers) added coding as a part of their Rec Center offerings. 

With the success of the initial program, CodeStream Studios refined the program to support [and] accommodate a broader age range as well as broader computer coding skill level.  Over the past school year, we have successfully hosted more than 10 CodeSLAMs with Uplift Education, Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas combined.  While the program focuses on social media, app development and game creation, the program has been adjusted to support data from multiple environments. So, at the Dallas Zoo the CodeSLAM program will feature an option of game development, app creation or social media development featuring animals that influence innovation.

With funding from High Tech High Heels, PDF and CodeStream Studios partnered with Frontiers of Flight for a Spring Break ’18 program to support the Young Women’s STEM Leadership Initiative with a vision to increase female students’ interest in STEM-related careers. More than 45 girls from Young Women’s Leadership Academy at Arnold (GPISD) and Young Women’s STEAM Academy at Balch Springs (DISD) participated in the program.  It should be noted that both schools have a high percentage of under-resourced girls. We believe that by providing these students opportunities to view real-world applications of STEM, it will encourage them to push past any boundaries they may encounter as they plan for their future.

The CodeSLAM program was used with MIT App Inventor to create games featuring Dorothy Vaughan and the women who devote their careers to space exploration.

Q: What is the ultimate impact of these programs?

PDF and CodeStream Studios partnered with Frontiers of Flight for a Spring Break ’18 program to support the Young Women’s STEM Leadership Initiative with a vision to increase female students’ interest in STEM-related careers. More than 45 girls from Young Women’s Leadership Academy at Arnold (GPISD) and Young Women’s STEAM Academy at Balch Springs (DISD) participated in the program.  It should be noted that both schools have a high percentage of under-resourced girls. We believe that by providing these students opportunities to view real-world applications of STEM, it encouraged them to push past their boundaries as they plan for their future.

At Jubilee Park Community Center, CodeStream Studios provided an out-of-school coding program during the 2017-18 school year where approximately 25 girls participated in a web development program that used HTML/ CSS and JavaScript to a build a website page for a business. The “graduation” exercise for this coding program was for the participants to present the website that they developed and to walk the audience through their coding technique.  We feel this program provided the students exposure to coding as well as confidence to present to an audience.  But most of all it was fun! 

Spotlight: Laura Steffek, making a difference in STEM

As March celebrates International Women’s Day as well as Women’s History Month, we want to spotlight a woman who is making a difference! We sat down with Laura Steffek, a High-Tech High Heels member and director of new product development for Texas Instruments’ Sensing business, to chat about how she is working to encourage more girls to pursue careers in STEM professions.

HTHH: How did you become involved in HTHH?

I’ve always been passionate about encouraging girls to choose STEM careers. Before moving to Dallas, I was involved in speaking to school groups and Girl Scout troops about STEM. When my family and I moved to Dallas ten years ago, I looked for new ways to continue that involvement, and when I learned about HTHH I knew right away that I wanted to be a part of it! I’ve been a HTHH volunteer since 2008 and a board member since 2011.

HTHH: What do you believe is HTHH’s greatest impact?

A: One the programs we have funded is gender equity training for high school math and science teachers. When this program was created, our expectation was that teachers would become more effective at teaching girls. What surprised us is that after teachers have gone through this training, the AP scores go up not only for the girls, but also for the boys! All students benefit when teachers have this training.

HTHH: What is one thing you want people to know about HTHH?

A: We are an all-volunteer organization. We are grateful for the support of our fantastic volunteers and for our generous donors.

HTHH: Can you share a memory or story about HTHH that stands out to you?

A: My favorite story is about a young woman named Maria, who participated in the first Physics Camp. She spoke at a HTHH event a few years ago, and she told us her story. She had a large, extended family in Dallas, and none of them attended college. Her teacher encouraged her to attend Physics Camp, so she did. Every day when she left home to go to camp, her mother asked her, “Why are you doing this? Your cousins don’t do this.” Maria told us that without the encouragement of her high school teacher and the physics camp instructors, she never would have gone on to college. But she did go to college, and she graduated with a degree in electrical engineering technology and received a job in a lab in Dallas. The programs that HTHH funds have the power to change lives.

HTHH: What are the greatest obstacles you have seen women face in STEM?

A: When I was a brand-new electrical engineer back in the late 80s, I felt that I had to prove myself twice, once because I was a new engineer, and once because I am a woman. Many people seemed skeptical that a woman could be a good engineer. There’s been progress made, but still women earn less than 20% of the engineering degrees awarded in this country.

My father is a retired engineer, and he was my best source of encouragement when I decided I wanted to become an engineer. For the first ten years of my career, every other female engineer I met told me her father also was an engineer. I think that speaks volumes about how difficult it can be for a woman to choose a STEM career. My hope for HTHH is that our programs provide the support and encouragement that young girls need today, so they can be successful in STEM even if they don’t have a parent who works in STEM.

HTHH: What makes you passionate about STEM?

A: I love solving problems and learning new things, and that’s what engineers get to do all the time.

HTHH: What advice would you share with girls as they learn about STEM?

A: Have fun! Be curious. Experiment. Try new things, and don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Making mistakes, and trying again until you find a solution, is a great way to learn.

Happy New Year – the reason for the resolution

The reason for the resolution:

Each year at High-Tech High Heels (HTHH) we resolve ourselves to continue to make the most meaningful impact possible. To expand our reach in the community by investing in programs that uplift female students in STEM; to nurture young minds through equity training, academic preparation and increased interest in STEM fields; and to fill the education pipeline with girls who will graduate with STEM majors and obtain STEM careers.  

As we begin a new year, and continue that mission, we reflect back on 2017 and the impact had. Below, take a look at some of our most cherished highlights, and remember the reason for our resolution, and the importance of the role we each play.

Happy 2018!



Spotlight: Janavi, DCC alumna

We sit down with Janavi, a former Design Connect Create camper and TA and junior at Townview Magnet school, to chat about her experience at the camp.

HTHH: How did you find out about Design Connect Create? 
Jana: When I was 7 and most years after that, I used to come to the camp for ice cream days and hoverboard rides. I was tagging along with my sister, who was 14 at the time, when she was working at the Irma Rangel physics camp with Mr. Brown and Dr. Jensen. I remember sitting with Dr. Jensen’s kids – she who wrote the first grant for the physics camps.

HTHH: What is your sister doing now?
Jana: She is doing her masters at biomedical at UTD, she also did her bachelor’s there. She originally found out about the camps from Dr. Jensen who recommended she attend.

HTHH: Sounds like you have a family of engineers! What do your parents think about that?
Jana: My dad works for American Airlines in IT, and my mom is an AP physics teacher. I go to a magnet school – Science and Engineering Magnet School in Townview. It’s not close to home so my dad drops me off and I take the bus back, it takes 20-30 minutes. It’s worth it though, it’s a great school and the teachers are amazing! *find out if they went thru equity training*

HTHH: Tell me about your first time attending the camp as a real student.
Jana: I was really excited to come to the camp after visiting for so many years. It was really exciting to see physics happening – doing experiments, not just talking about it. Helped me learn visually. We did one of the experiments on the physics camp that was a problem on the AP exam. As a student my favorite part was the experiments. We hit a bowling ball with a broom to understand tangent forces. And we had guest speakers to come talk to us about being a woman in engineering.

HTHH: What kinds of topics did they talk about?
Jana: Mostly about overcoming difficulties in being a woman in engineering. One woman worked as a factory manager and faced a lot of backlash – people were not following protocols and then criticizing her because she was a woman. She left and got a better job. She said that people will tell you that you can’t do this or that because you’re a woman, but you can recognize that they need you more than you need them and move on to something better.
We had the speakers over and got to talk casually with us at lunch and talk 1:1, and gave out at their business cards. A couple girls specifically asked what you should do if someone is putting you down or harassing you. Some wanted to ask about internships and shadowing.

 HTHH: How was being a counselor this summer, one year after being a student? What kind of things were you doing?
Jana: I took the AP physics exam last year and it was really helpful because I could talk about experiments that showed up on the physics exam. I also got other girls really excited about the camp. It was also just fun being able to relate to everyone, because we’re about the same age. And since I already use social media, I was helping out with the social media and one the TA. Different jobs but both of them were really fun.
As a counselor my favorite experiment was the dart gun lab. They try to understand how to get a projectile to go the farthest distance. Explaining how to explain the data, verifying data, graphs and charts.

HTHH: What did you see differently when you were a counselor that you didn’t notice as a camper?
Jana: At the beginning, a lot of girls didn’t know and were quick to give up – but at the end their attitude was now, I don’t know but I can go figure it out. And as the week went on, everyone relaxed more and were less shy. That was kind of my job was to help inspire everyone and hype everyone up.

HTHH: How do you think the camps helped you so far in the school year that came after?
Jana: The physics camps helped me build relationships with the teachers to get help during the school year. It gave us a lot of material that I could refer back to during the year, and resources like their contact info and khan academy.
When I first entered the camp I didn’t know if I wanted to do all physics – I was into astronomy and physics but then I got into robotics. I love physics and math, and being at the camps actually led me into computer science. The camps taught me that I can use physics in other fields – at first I wanted to be an astrophysicst. But a lady from the EPA came to talk to us about how everything we were doing with graphing will help us later because you have to show your data to everyone from engineers to people out on the street.
Also, the camp tried to recruit from all over, but for our year all students were from three schools – Irma Rangel and Hillcrest and Townview. I talk to a lot of the Irma Rangel friends on Snapchat and even ask them for help on Snapchat sometimes!

HTHH: That’s awesome! I know it’s a little early, but have you thought about college yet?
Jana: I haven’t really thought about colleges, I know UT Austin is an option in state, and Carnegie Mellon and MIT outside of that. We had a college counselor come to talk to us at the camps every year (Sarah Miller) and she talks to us about college essays. She gives us a list of scholarships – Dr. Jensen also created a paper with a college application to-do list. The camp also helps your relationship with the teachers – so now I can ask teachers I’ve worked with (after being in camp and working the camp) I can get a better letter of recommendation, since the teachers actually know me and tutored me.

HTHH: Since you’ve done both girls only camps and camps with both boys and girls, what do you think the differences are?
Jana: It’s fun to have a girls-only camp because you can ask questions you might not want to if there were boys there, like how being a woman affected your experience. With the boys camps I think the questions may be more generic, not as gender related. And having a girls-only camp helps bring in women engineers and role models, and that’s usually not the case with a girls and boys camp. It’s also a lot more focused with just girls there. 

HTHH: What do you do outside of school and robotics?
Jana: I love film scores which is really funny because at the first physics camp I did, so I would turn on muisc when we were working on projects and kids would ask “is this pirates of the carribean” and we would jam out. I also started a book club at my school since I love reading. We read A Darker Shade of Magic, a history book about leonardo davinci. We try to read books of all types. It’s kind of fun because I bring cookies and the school provides milk. It helps us to de-stress with food and books.

HTHH: Thanks for chatting with us! We’ll see you and your sister at Friendraiser.

Announcing our 2017 Winter Grant Recipients!

We are excited to announce and congratulate to our winter grant recipients! Congratulations to the following programs:

Design Connect Create!  Our partner for delivering summer AP physics camps for girls will offer six camp sessions in 2016 in Dallas ISD, Mesquite ISD, Fort Worth ISD, DeSoto ISD and Grand Prairie ISD.
National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity (NAPE) received a grant to deliver a second year of STEM Gender Equity training for educators in the Fort Worth ISD. NAPE training helps educators identify possible sour ces of bias, recognize the unique gifts of others and embrace cultural diversity.
Texas A&M College of Education and Human Development received a grant to provide a STEM camp for middle school girls in collaboration with the Wylie ISD SMARTgirls program. The mission of SMARTgirls is to expose middle school girls to a variety of engineering disciplines through engaging hands-on activities that inspire and encourage their interest in STEM.
The University of Texas at Dallas Naveen Jindal School of Management received a grant to provide an IT STEM camp for middle school girls.


TAMU STEM camp for girls

High-Tech High Heels is proud to support Texas A&M’s AggieSTEM program in launching their first all-girls camp aimed at students in grades 7-12. AggieSTEM is a partnership between Texas A&M and Dallas ISD geared towards aiding STEM educators and schools in preparing their students for STEM careers, in addition to the summer camps, which incorporate non-credit classwork, social activities and field trips over either one or two weeks. Read more about the new program here.