The girls visited Nova Labs, where they were able to take apart old computers, scanners, cameras, cell phones and even an old Xerox copy machine. GEMS Club members, armed with screwdrivers, pliers and safety glasses, dismantled the machines to see what makes them tick.
“We provide the recycled items and the tools and the girls provide the elbow grease and the enthusiasm,” says Brian Jacoby, Nova Labs President. The goal, he says, is to inspire tinkering and to feed girls’ natural curiosity, encouraging them to touch, try and explore.
Amy Shaw, parent of a GEMS student, "It was amazing to see how much fun the girls had taking apart old electronics. They made things like jewelry out of the parts by threading things through wire. The time flew by and they had so much fun."
"It was great to see so many girls engaged, curious and reflective while actively taking apart these electronics and examining their insides for an entire two hours. They really seemed to enjoy the opportunity to be immersed in the experience," said GEMS teacher Megan McKinley.
As a result of this program, a new initiative has been created called the Girl Makers of Northern Virginia.
The project—funded by a $3,500 grant from the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia’s Innovation Fund ($1,000) and the Moore Family Foundation ($2,500), builds upon the current program and will be used in Reston and Herndon's Cluster 8.
“New funding will allow us to expand the program,” Jacoby says. Take Apart sessions, like Girl Makers, aims to build girls’ interest in pursuing STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) classes and careers.
Langston Hughes students enjoyed the opportunity at Nova Labs.
Reyna Perez, 7th grade, said “We chose an object and we had to destroy it and looked inside of it. It was awesome.”
Elizabeth Vandenburg, Co-Lead and Outreach Director of GEMS and MAGiC, said, “We all know the 21st-century economic engine is STEM innovation. What is the untapped resource? Nearly 51% of the U.S. population: women. Girls need to get in the pipeline, and Nova Labs is at the cutting edge spearheading this exciting project.”
Founded in 1994 , the GEMS Club initiative is a grassroots, after-school effort to expose 3rd through 8th grade girls to the fun and wonder of STEM fields. Started at Clearview Elementary School by volunteers and teachers, the GEMS Club initiative now has 35 clubs across Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) and expanded at the 2011 Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) in Chicago, Illinois.
Nova Labs is a nonprofit “makerspace” in Reston that provides a community workshop where people can learn, teach and collaborate on creative and technical works, and promotes the usefulness of competence in the technical arts. The lab is part of the international grassroots Maker Movement, spreading quickly in neighborhoods across the United States.
The Mid-Atlantic Girls Collaborative (MAGiC) is a coalition of corporate, educational and non-profit organizations dedicated to promoting girls and STEM.