For all the griping you hear about teenagers, many of them care deeply about their world. And that’s certainly evident at San Fernando High School, a math, science, and technology magnet school in the Los Angeles area that educates such promising young people every day. In fact, 12 of the school’s junior and senior girls have spent the last year working on a grant-funded project to create solar-powered shelters for the homeless — and their work has been so impressive, they’ve been given the opportunity to present their work at MIT this June.
Just let that sink in for a minute.
All of the students are just 16 and 17 years old. Many of them come from low-income families, and are either the daughters of immigrants or immigrants themselves. And yet they’ve come together and created energy-efficient shelters for those in their community who are less fortunate, without any place to live.
But in order to make it all the way to MIT to present their work, they need your help. The $10,000 Lemelson-MIT InvenTeam Grant, a sponsored program from the School of Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, covered the cost of building their invention, but does not provide the financial assistance necessary to send these awe-inspiring girls to Massachusetts this summer.
Violet Mardirosian, a math teacher and magnet coordinator at San Fernando High, has worked with the team since the beginning. She credits former student and MIT graduate Evelyn Gomez with suggesting the formation of an “InvenTeam” and applying for the grant.
After discussing the idea with her students, 12 girls came forward with their vision. But like all STEM-related inventions, there was a lot of work to be done, and the girls’ determination never wavered. Mardirosian tells Babble the group is endlessly researching, working, writing, testing, and re-testing to get it right, and that the team has given presentations to their school, as well as to engineers, to help develop their public speaking skills in preparation for June.
But because there’s not a grade associated with this project, Mardirosian explains that the girls are working on the project outside of their regular curriculum, after school and on weekends. In fact, Mardirosian says she and the girls will be in the building every day this week working on the shelters — even though it’s their spring break. When asked what motivates these ambitious students to keep going, she beams, saying it’s “their drive and compassion.” Mardirosian tells Babble that the girls wanted “to provide comfort and dignity” to those in their community who need it the most.
Make no mistake, that’s pretty incredible. Twelve bright and courageous girls saw a need. They recognized that the San Fernando Valley has seen a 36 percent increase in homelessness within the last year that affects more than 7,100 residents and took action on a problem declared by local leaders to be a “state of emergency.” Their determination is inspiring on its own, but their story also proves that exposure to STEM-related opportunities matter, and it sends an important message to young girls around our nation: engineering is for girls.
The amazing DIY Girls InvenTeam deserves the opportunity of presenting their work in person at EurekaFest this summer, but they can’t get their on their own. The group’s GoFundMe page has a goal set at $15,000, but Mardirosian explains this financial goal represents the bare minimum, admitting the trip could cost more. If you’d like to help send this group of future female engineers on this once in a lifetime opportunity, donate here.
Good luck, girls!