Empowering the Next Generation of Female Leaders through Duke Flash!

 August 30, 2018

As these successful iterations of the program led to increased demand, Jen and Rema began searching for support to guide its expansion and sustainability. Jen and Rema were honored to have been selected to participate in the Melissa & Doug Entrepreneurs program - a unique, year-long, selective fellowship that provides extensive mentorship and funding for Duke Students to create their own successful startups. Additionally, Rema was selected to participate in the Broadhead Service Program, which helped to support a summer iteration and expansion of Flash! to another domestic location with a demonstrated need for and desire to implement their curriculum. Through the extensive Duke Alumni network, Jen and Rema were introduced to Lower East Side Girls Club (LESGC) in New York. This organization was the first after-school enrichment organization for young girls exclusively from the Lower East Side neighborhood. It is an organization that advocates for the sentiments of youth and female advocacy and education among traditionally marginalized and immigrant populations. The LESGC attempts to provide a supportive network of mentors and resources for young women in one of the most underfunded and underperforming school districts in the country.

 

Jen and Rema were thus ecstatic to implement their human-centered design and engineering program for these girls, providing them with exposure to STEM concepts. The girls from this neighborhood have historically been underrepresented in these careers. By providing the tools and mentorship in engineering and design, the ultimate goal will be for girls to feel empowered and motivated to pursue them at a higher-education level.  With the year-round programming component of The Lower Eastside Girls Club platform, there is also the opportunity for the engineering curriculum to be implemented as one of the activities that these girls engage in on a regular basis even after the summer. This allows for the girls to be the future teachers and leaders after learning the curriculum so that they can continue passing it down to the younger girls in future years, thus creating a self-sustainable model. 

Through this program, girls learn how to safely solder circuitry components and incorporate this circuit into the light source body they have designed and created.

Over the summer, the project resulted in the creation of numerous projects which included light sources, motorized race cars, and even the pilot of a life-size one-passenger boat. The initial engineering and design Flash! curriculum that was developed from the DukeEngage Kolkata program has experienced significant growth and has been tailored to fully reflect the ability of the girls to think creatively and collaboratively to design, test, and build their final products. The implications of the projects manifested in the girls' interest to continue participating in engineering workshop electives in the fall. This decision demonstrated that the Flash! activities this summer piqued their interest and excitement in this hands-on field, motivating them to explore it further in the future. 

Examples of the variety of light source designs the girls created.

On the left is an example of a motorized car that was designed, built, and decorated by girls this summer. On the right, the girls are preparing to race their respective cars.

The most immediate impact that these civic engagement opportunities have had on Jen and Rema’s academic careers is the enthusiasm to take more service-based classes that place an emphasis on community involvement. Through integrating intellectual curiosity about a variety of topics such as Durham-Duke relations, health policy, and venues for artistic expression with the ability to interact with local Durham students, residents, and business, the ability to make an impact is quite profound. Exploring all aspects of a community has allowed Jen and Rema to play a bigger role in combating some of the issues that plague the local community. Professionally, the experience has given them an avenue to pursue a more entrepreneurial approach in terms of expanding their efforts to increase underrepresented female representation in STEM and empowering them to inhabit leadership positions within these fields.

Jen and Rema during their final day at the Lower East Side Girls Club

This academic year, Jen is excited to continue her collaboration with the Center for Global Women’s Health Technologies where she is working as an Associate in Research. Rema will begin her senior year at Duke. Flash! is gearing up for another year of community engagement, while also scaling its reach to include more domestic and international partnerships. The goal is to make this program incredibly collaborative and sustainable while empowering as many girls as possible!