Inspiring girls to become women who shape the future through technology
Technology and engineering disciplines still lack diversity - even in 2019. The complex nature of this problem asks for collective solutions that tackle different facets of the problem. No single initiative will change this, and more importantly for a systematic change, we must force ourselves to think about long-term impact.
This is why imagiLabs is going straight to the root of the problem: the fact that not enough girls are exposed to technology and programming early on, in ways that are genuinely appealing for them. Because of this, they do not develop the interest nor the foundation necessary to later enter technical university studies and then careers.
Since technology is the future, we must equip girls with the skills needed to be able to shape technology, and hence the future. On top of this, today's girls should have an equal opportunity to become tomorrow's working women who contribute to shaping the future.
Opportunity for change
For our team, what was a well-known problem that we had experienced first-hand during our studies and in the workplace, turned into an opportunity to act. We started working to create a scalable solution that extends past workshops and one-time events aimed to increase girls' interest in tech.
After two years of user-centric research and testing, a number of iterations and hundreds of girls that have tested the solution, our team settled on an approach that brings programming right into the pocket of our target audience and applies it to their daily interests and activities.
imagiLabs introduces programming fundamentals in a visual, tangible and creative way through a mobile platform and paired programmable accessories. The programmable accessory took the form of a keychain accessory with embedded RGB/multicolored LEDs that can be programmed to display any colors, shapes or patterns. The users learn programming in Python through interactive and gamified tutorials in the app and right away see the result of their code on their accessory, creating a quick feedback loop that is key for learning and engagement. Through the application they can see what their friends have created and collaborate on projects and ask each other for help.
Different tools for different people
Since technology is a fundamental part of many different fields, it is important to show children and youth the diversity of applications so that people with different interests can develop an interest in programming. imagiLabs has worked with teenage girls to understand what ways coding can be brought into the activities they enjoy performing.
Through our research, we understood that teenage girls would like to use programming as a means to express themselves, for example through customization. We also found that they want to share their interests with their friends and enjoy collaborative environments and noticed that they prefer phones over computers. We integrated all of these learnings into our solution.
By co-creating a product with girls, we are expanding the ways in which youth can be introduced to programming that today still fail to engage a majority of girls. imagiCharm, our first programmable accessory, has just launched for pre-orders and is available until June 27 on Kickstarter.
Inspiring girls to shape the future through technology
Beyond teaching programming through imagiCharm and the app, imagiLabs is creating a community of girls who act as role models for each other. It is creating a movement of girls shaping the future through technology. Our mission is to empower and inspire girls to pursue careers in technology and engineering, fields that we currently represent less than a fifth of.
Ericsson was the first to recognize the importance of our mission and approach by selecting imagiLabs to be incubated with support of Ericsson ONE. Ericsson ONE is Ericsson's incubator and accelerator for intrapreneurs with game-changing ideas. After the incubation phase, imagiLabs has continued its collaboration with Ericsson through the Digital Lab program which is Ericsson's outreach program teaching technology skills to children and youth. A new course called Creative Coding is under development and this course will make full use of the imagiLabs methodology and solutions.
The Digital Lab program is a part of Ericsson's Connect to Learn initiative. The main purpose of our Connect to Learn deployment is to increase access to quality education, particularly for girls, through access to relevant technology and digital learning resources. Including a module with a more intentional focus on engaging girls and balancing the gender gap, alongside courses in artificial intelligence, game development and robotics can help Connect to Learn to better deliver on its value proposition.
Through this collaboration and Ericsson's global network, imagiLabs can have a much greater reach and impact. As for Ericsson, the company can act as a leader not only in the industry but also in changing the industry.
We are very thankful to Ericsson ONE and all of the other departments in Ericsson that have supported us in this journey. Now it's time for us to spread the word to more parents and we need your help! Help us share our campaign with any parents dreaming to see their daughters thriving in the tech industry, or anyone who might be interested. Sister, daughter, niece, cousin or friend – we built imagiCharm to expand programming and make it inclusive for all girls to creatively express themselves while learning how to program. Join our Kickstarter campaign today!