The University of Massachusetts Amherst
University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Girl Scouts Engineer Wearable, Electronic, Light-up Jewelry at UMass Amherst

Light-up Earrings

NeoPixel Ring

On Saturday, January 31, the Diversity Programs Office at the University of Massachusetts Amherst ran a “Girl Scout Adafruit Workshop” in which Scouts from western Massachusetts spent the morning designing, engineering, and constructing wearable, electronic, programmable, light-up jewelry.

“Our main goal is to attract the girls to engineering by making sure they have a lot of fun learning about it,” explains Dr. Paula Rees, the director of the Diversity Programs Office at UMass Amherst. “The focus of the day is to learn the basics of soldering and programming while making a really cool project to take home to keep or give away as a gift. Most girls will be making necklaces that they can program to light up in different colors and patterns. A few girls will each use the same technology but instead make a pair of earrings.” 

All projects utilized two technologies: Adafruit Gemma, a miniature, wearable, Arduino-like, electronics platform board with a lot of might for a low-cost controller; and NeoPixel rings, which consists of 16 LEDs in a ring that can be programmed to make any color by mixing red, green, and blue light (RGB). 

This event was especially designed for high school and middle school Girl Scouts and was open to all skill levels. In the process of creating their own computerized jewelry, the Scouts also learned about engineering as a career and got a chance to meet young women working toward their B.S. degrees in a variety of engineering disciplines.

In fact, this workshop was one of two such events this spring in which Girl Scouts learn about engineering as a career path and meet some good role models from the UMass student chapter of the Society of Women Engineers, whose members are personally hosting, facilitating, mentoring, and teaching at both events.

“The purpose is to inspire girls about engineering at an early age,” says Dr. Rees. “We want to create a pipeline of young women into engineering.” (January 2015)