For an exciting three days, Microsoft welcomed nearly 100 girls to its Fargo campus (Fargo hosts the 2nd largest Microsoft campus in the world) for an experience of a lifetime. DigiGirlz is a high-tech camp that gives middle and high school girls an in-depth look at Microsoft and careers in technology. Five girls from Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch took part in the part.
The leaders and speakers took a similar approach, in many ways, to the one we have at the Ranch. They targeted their message to girls who were skeptical about their skills or new to the subjects; and instilled self-worth and confidence by sharing their stories of both success and failure.
From this, the young girls learned they don't have to perfect everything the first time around. When they try something and don't succeed, that's just a first attempt at learning. With a little help, support, and perseverance, they can try time after time until they reach their goals.
In the past, girls were not always encouraged to think they have the talent or skills necessary for success in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM) fields. Research cited by many of the DigiGirlz speakers proves they do. Women and girls can have the skills they need for the tech world.
Speakers encouraged the participants to develop these skills by learning to FAIL (First Attempt in Learnings)--plan, test, try a different way, reach out for help, and always know every attempt is one step closer to achieving the goal. Curiosity, bravery and persistence help people thrive in STEM fields. The girls were told over and over to try, and try again.
Speakers also conveyed the importance of relationships. "You can have great ideas, but without great relationships, those ideas die," Todd Beard, a teacher and coding advocate from Michigan, said.
In addition to changing their mindset, the camp highlighted the girls' STEAM skills through hands-on activities. They learned to code using easily code-able micro:bits, and Microsoft gave every participant a micro:bit to take home so they could practice the coding they learned.
Another speaker, Professor Adam Goyt from Minnesota State University Moorhead, had the kids stack and sort objects to determine the number of possible permutations (a permutation is a list of numbers, words, objects, etc., where order matters.) "Ainsley," a Ranch resident who loves math, especially enjoyed this activity.
A Winning Team
In one of the icebreakers, teams of girls built catapults out of popsicle sticks and rubber bands--and then competed to see which teach could use their catapult to launch Swedish fish the farthest distance. Morgan* and Ainsley*, two young women from the Ranch, took third place!
Morgan, age 15, plans to use her impressive skills to train as a graphic designer, a career that combines computers and art. She has been teaching herself to code since age 12, and DigiGirlz gave her the opportunity to see how her skills can be applied to the real world.
Ainsley is interested in a cosmetology career--cosmetology isn't recognized by all as a STEAM profession, but many understand the complicated and precise science and technology required to achieve the correct looks and hairstyles for clients.
"I love to solve problems, and it's fun!" Ainsley said.
Thank you so much to Microsoft, Taya Spelhaug of Microsoft, and the Ranch staff who made it possible for our kids to share in this great experience.
*Names changed to protect the confidentiality of our kids.
This article was originally published in Ranch Voice: Summer 2018.
Read more stories like this and explore other issues of Ranch Voice here.