Jewelbots, created by Sara Chipps, developer and co-founder of the non-profit Girl Develop It!, Brooke Moreland, a fashion-tech entrepreneur, and Maria Saba, a postdoctoral research fellow, are programmable friendship bracelets that teach tween and teen girls the basics of coding.
“The girls we know are curious and creative, just like we were when we were young (and still are!). We wanted to create something that lets them communicate with their friends while discovering the tools of programming,” Sara said about the inspiration for Jewelbots.
Using basic engineering logic, girls can program their Jewelbots right out of the box. The bracelets light up, vibrate or flash, letting them communicate with each other in Morse code. The bracelets are connected through Bluetooth, and can be used with or without a linked phone.
For those who want to further their programming skills, they can plug into the computer and use open-source software Arduino IDE to customize their technology-enabled jewelry with unique functions.
Using provided snippets of code, girls can program their bracelets to light up when they receive a new Instagram or Facebook notification, or let them know when a text comes in from a parent, etc.
Once users become familiar with the fundamentals, they can go on to create whatever they want. They’ll also be able to share their work with other wearers on the Jewelbots online community.
Jewelbots mission is to open girls’ minds to STEM during an age when many lose interest. According to a 2012 study from the Girl Scout Institute, 75% of girls polled were interested in the STEM fields. The same study also showed that these girls were very likely to be interested in creative pursuits like drawing, writing and fashion. But, despite this initial interest in STEM, girls are not choosing to study computer science.
“The number of women pursuing computer science degrees has actually dropped since the mid 80s. At the same time, engineering and tech jobs are growing like crazy. We want to help girls get excited about building and technology at a young age, before they are deciding what career path to choose,” Sara explains.
This comes at a critical time. It’s expected that by the year 2020, there will be 1.4 million job openings for computer specialists in the U.S. At current graduation rates, only 30 percent of those jobs can be filled with U.S. computing graduates. One way to fix this? Get more girls interested in STEM careers.
Clearly Jewelbots is on to something big, this week they launched a crowdfunding campaign, exceeding its goal of raising $30,000 in the first 19 hours. At the time of this article, they had raised almost $50,000, and climbing.
To learn more about encouraging kids to explore STEM, visit US2020.