Encouraging Girls to Hack and Make

Education Technology
Encouraging Girls to Hack and Make


I first got interested in engineering and technology 30 years ago when I was in 5th grade. My class had four Apple IIe computers, and my teacher taught us to program in Logo and BASIC. This was my first time using technology to create something and I loved it. In 6th grade, my teacher continued teaching me to program and took some of us to what would now be called a hackathon for kids at our local university. When I entered middle school, I chose to take computer programming again since it was something I was already familiar with and I didn’t want to take cooking. These experiences sparked an interest in me to pursue a technology career, and after high school I was on my way to MIT to study electrical engineering.

Unfortunately, my story is not so common for girls from Pacoima, a high-poverty, majority-Latino community in the Northeast San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles. While most focus on stats that label my community as disadvantaged and underserved, we do have an advantage when it comes to making. Pacoima is a community of makers. Growing up, I saw both men and women making things like their own furniture from scrap wood, toys for their kids, elaborate dresses for quinceañeras, and hacking and fixing electronic household devices.

After working as a hardware engineer, attending grad school at Harvard, and working in science and engineering education for 10 years, I decided to go back to my community last year and start a program for girls. I wanted to make explicit for girls the connection between making in their community and making with more advanced technology. To do this, I launched the DIY Girls after-school program for 5th grade girls at my former elementary school. The school offered me a dedicated classroom space, which ended up being my own 5th grade classroom! With help from volunteers, friends, and teachers, I converted the classroom into a makerspace, recruited our first cohort of participants, and was ready to get started.


The DIY Girls program is designed to offer experiences that will attract young girls to technology, allow them to express themselves creativity, and give them more confidence in their technical abilities. We aim to have an effect on the girls as they enter adolescence and start to form career interests. We meet with 30 girls twice a week for two hours each session throughout the school year. Through hands-on making activities, girls in our program make real things like their own toys, wearable electronics, and video games. They learn technical skills including soldering, computer programming, basic electronics, and power tool usage. They then apply these skills creatively by designing their own projects and inventions.

We focus on these three areas:

  • Creative Electronics: Girls learn electronics though e-textiles and other creative materials like conductive paint. The goal is for girls to be creative while learning basic electronics. They also learn to solder, strip wire, build circuits on breadboards, and use multimeters.
  • Building and Tinkering: We teach girls to use tools needed to build things. Girls take things apart and learn appropriate ways to use the tools in addition to safety techniques. We aim to instill confidence through this session.
  • Product Design: Girls combine the skills developed throughout the year to design and create their own products. Girls use a 3D printer, MakeyMakey boards, and other materials to create a product. We culminate with a public showcase of the products for families and the community.

DIY Girls has been successful in creating a learning environment where girls can take risks, build confidence, and work on projects that attract them to technology. If a girl gets frustrated one day because her program or project didn’t work, she knows she will have the opportunity to try again when she returns to our space for the next session. Girls love that they’re learning real skills, and teachers and administrators have told us that they notice an increase in self-confidence in them.

We’re excited that the majority of girls want to continue working on making projects in middle school. Unfortunately, their middle schools are offering them technology classes where they learn to open and close windows and type documents. This is devastating for us and the reason we want to continue offering programs for our girls beyond 5th grade. We dream of teaching our girls more advanced skills like programming and creating projects with Arduino and Lilypad Arduino.

In addition to our vision of creating continuity for our girls, we want to expand to new schools. Word of mouth about our program has spread in the community and we get calls from schools that want us to offer the program at their school. This interest and demand inspired us to launch an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds so that we can expand our program and reach more girls! I invite you to learn more about our program, consider supporting us, and send us ideas on new projects for our girls.

YouTube player

Editor’s Note: We met Luz at World Maker Faire New York 2013, where she had travelled across the country to spread the word. Her passion and enthusiasm are contagious and we applaud Luz on her efforts!

14 thoughts on “Encouraging Girls to Hack and Make

  1. Brett says:

    This is a great thing you have started Luz! If I was a 5th grade boy again though I think I would be jealous. I didn’t start to get electronics exposure at school until 10th grade. Any plans on starting a DIY Boys or some day making it for all genders? I can see how keeping it girls only would prevent any typical boy/girl type competitiveness, which is most definitely occurring by 5th grade. However I think with the right teaching methods, any sort of gender stereotypes can be squashed, and focus can be put on the subject matter. In a non-gender specific class, showing boys that girls can do it too will help to break those stereotypes at an early age. I’d love to hear what your thoughts are on this.

    1. Luz Rivas says:

      I replied as a new comment. See below :)

  2. More Hands On - STEM@BBCC says:

    […] Rivas, Founder and Executive Director of DIY Girls, has written piece about her experience in starting an after-school program nurturing the minds of 5th grade […]

  3. Luz Rivas says:

    Thanks Brett! I’m so jealous of the girls too and if I ever go to our program and don’t feel jealous then it’s time to change things. My first electronics project was in college in my sophomore year. Way behind others! Right now, we have a monthly workshop at the LA Public Library on Saturdays open to boys and girls. We partnered with Curiosity Hacked (formerly Hacker Scouts) to offer these Open Labs. The labs are open to all and we get lots of boys there. The boys get to see girls working on projects and we hope to have our girls teach other kids so our community will see them as mentors. Right now I don’t have plans to start DIY Boys, I’m staying focused on the girls but I have a male volunteer that’s interested in something like that or just serving both genders so he may start to do it on his own.

    1. Brett says:

      That’s great to hear Luz! Keep up the good work. I can see this turning into a national organization/program like the Girl Scouts. The maker community is growing at an exponential rate these days, and for the first time in my life I really feel like the next 100 years will progress civilization by leaps and bounds.

  4. susanklement says:

    Reblogged this on Susan's Musings and commented:
    I love this idea! I have been looking around at Maker Spaces online, because I love the idea, but it seems like there are a lot of men that go to these spaces and not many women. That makes me a bit nervous, honestly, and I am a grown woman. Young girls must feel even more nervous at the whole idea. DIY Girls is a great idea!

    1. Luz Rivas says:

      Thanks Susan! We also have a meetup group in LA for women http://www.meetup.com/DIYgirls/ where we have events at local makerspaces, fabrication shops, etc. It’s a good way to introduce women to a space and learn a new skill. Some end up continuing to attend the space and get to know others they’re not so nervous.

      1. susanklement says:

        This is such a great program, Luz, thanks. If I were anywhere near LA, I would love to come and see it, but I am way over in the Midwest. I do know it is possible that the spaces around here would be inclusive, but it is still a bit daunting the first time to be the only woman going to a place like that. But more, I love the idea of encouraging younger girls to get into this sort of thing, and I love the self confidence boost that they get from learning to persist and make something useful.

  5. renegadegeek says:

    Very cool! It’s so important to provide girls with the support they need to become scientists and engineers. Though school isn’t always the place that happens, extracurricular programs and clubs offer a great way to provide opportunities. Things are changing. Now we need to find ways to continue that support into middle school, high school, college and the workplace.

  6. Finally, A Tool Belt for Women! | Sawdust & Lace says:

    […] Encouraging Girls to Hack and Make (makezine.com) […]

  7. How to Make a Female Maker | MAKE says:

    […] the country have been asking these questions; we at Techbridge are eager to contribute to this conversation. At Techbridge, we’re focused on inspiring girls in science, technology, engineering—and […]

  8. sophie says:

    Thank you so much Allan Almighty-hack,you are indeed my savior did an extremely perfect job in hacking my ungrateful and greedy husband account.the pig spent almost all my parent hard earned money on ladies.after trying all fake and scammers calling themselves hacker,only you prove to rescue me out.i just dont know how to thank you because you saved my family and secured my children future.if you have any pin to pick or any help in hacking any ungrateful cheating spouse,contact him on his gmail. almightyhacker777 @ gmail .com or you can contact him on his mobile +13602169007.he’s real and trustworthy i guaranty you.tell him you are been sent by sophie or Jenifer.(thank me later).

    N:B,he got pride ,so please massage his ego.

  9. Make: Japan | 女性Makerをメイクする方法 says:

    […] MakerスペースやMaker Faireを見回したとき、どれだけ女の子がいるだろう? もっと多くの女の子がMakerムーブメントに参加してもいいんじゃない? このところ、アメリカのMakerの間でも、こんな疑問を口にする人たちが増えてきました。私たちTechbridgeでも、この論議に加わりたいと思っています。Techbridgeは、女の子たちを、科学、技術、工学、そしてメイキングに目覚めさせる方法に注目しています。 […]

  10. Caleb Fisher says:

    Hello, I’m Caleb Fisher. Have you heard about Mr Hacker? then you should, he is the best hacker in the world. He amazed me when he successfully hacked an encrypted websites other hackers couldn’t , no payment upfront and he provides proof. If you need to;
    *hack personal, restricted and company emails,
    *change and delete grades,
    *delete DUIs, company records and files,
    *hack social media platforms and any websites
    *company systems and banks accounts
    *increase your credit score
    *sales of the best hacking apps and blank ATM cards
    He is very affordable and will give you the best deals, I trust him with my life. He has proved himself worthy.
    Contact him via mrhacker0909@gmail.com.

Comments are closed.

Discuss this article with the rest of the community on our Discord server!

Luz Rivas is Founder and Executive Director of DIY Girls. Ms. Rivas has experience in engineering, STEM curriculum development, program management, and educational research. Luz started her career as an electrical design engineer for Motorola. She has worked in informal science and engineering education for the last 10 years. She enjoys working on creative electronics projects and wants to get better at woodworking. Luz has a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from MIT and a Master’s in Technology in Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

View more articles by Luz Rivas


Maker Faire Bay Area 2023 - Mare Island, CA

Escape to an island of imagination + innovation as Maker Faire Bay Area returns for its 15th iteration!

Buy Tickets today! SAVE 15% and lock-in your preferred date(s).