Techbridge and Samsung Empower the Next Generation of Engineers and Innovators

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At 3:30pm on a summer afternoon, a group of girls at Ocala Middle School in San Jose are manipulating LilyPad microcontrollers. They’re students of the Techbridge Summer Academy, a nonprofit after-school and summer program that exposes young girls to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) curriculum through real-world applications. The organization serves more than 30 schools in Oakland, San Lorenzo, San Jose and Seattle through fun and educational hands-on projects — like designing a prosthetic hand, building a customized gumball machine or learning the fundamentals of chemical engineering by creating the formula for their own lip balm.

At Ocala, the girls “hacked” T-shirts as part of a wearable tech project under the guidance of computer engineers from Samsung Research America. These mentors helped students bedazzle their shirts with LED lights by teaching them to program Arduino microcontrollers to blink and flash. Once each girl determined and wrote her own code, she cut holes for the lights to shine through and sewed the microcontroller onto the underside of the fabric. By the end of the week-long program, each girl’s shirt was a marker of self-expression and ability — a reminder that she has what it takes to pursue a career in STEM.

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