The University of Hong Kong admitted their first female student in 1921, a full 10 years after it was established. While society’s come a long way from those dark days of inequality, stereotypes about females being worse at science subjects persist to this day.
That’s why The Women’s Foundation (TWF) started the Girl Go Tech (GGT) Programme in 2015. With a vision to empower female secondary students from under-privileged backgrounds to pursue STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) subjects, the programme uses a multi-faceted approach to make STEM engaging to participants.
Hands-on workshops are the most important part of GGT’s strategy. Working with partner STEM education providers such as BSD Code and Design Academy, GGT runs free workshops at participating schools to teach skills such as basic coding, soldering, problem solving, and product design. The students then use their newfound knowledge to work on projects of their own choosing, which are showcased in a grand exposition every year.
Additionally, visits to well-known companies are also part of the GGT strategy to increase interest and confidence in STEM subjects. For example, students had the opportunity to visit MTR Corporation’s Operations Control Centre in Tsing Yi to see how coding and computer logic are applied in the real world.
Some students also toured the Hong Kong offices of Goldman Sachs where they took part in a mini-coding workshop and tech-related mini-games. These activities showcased how STEM subject knowledge is vital for careers in many different fields. The Hong Kong branch of internet search giant Google also hosted GGT participants, where they spoke to the Managing Director of Sales & Operations Leonie Valentine about her hard-fought journey to a senior position in the world of tech.
Kanice Leung Nuen-yau, 13, of Belilios Public School participated in the 2017 GGT programme where she and her team designed an automated recycling bin. This bin opens its lid automatically when a hand is waved over an ultrasonic sensor. This approach is more hygienic and convenient as users will not need to touch the bin when inserting recyclables.
In addition to acquiring technical knowledge about designing, coding, and prototyping, Kanice learned about the importance of teamwork. “We planned out the project into smaller parts and divided the work according to our strengths. We each had to take responsibility for our own sections but also learned to offer support to each other if we were stuck.”
Rita Ching, TWF Deputy CEO remarked, “We are delighted to see that GGT has not only helped schools promote girls’ interest in STEM, but it has also transformed and accelerated teachers’ interest in STEM and the development of STEM education within schools, including cross-curricular teaching, and collaboration and experience sharing among teachers.”
Now in its fourth year of operation, the Girls Go Tech Programme will also launch an Alumni Programme in November, where past student participants can continue to explore STEM subjects through additional free workshops and online courses.
For the 2018-2019 academic year, GGT will work with more than 200 junior secondary female students and 300 teachers to continue to engender a positive attitude about STEM subjects in its participants.