In March 2015, The Oracle Education Foundation (OEF) organized Girls Only: A Wearable Technology Workshop, which taught 22 ninth graders from Design Tech High School in California to design and build working prototypes of wearable technologies using the Adafruit FLORA platform.

student pointing at a flora diagram on  a computer monitor students wearing their OEF LED hair bows

Computer science education is especially important to the OEF, and is a focus point of their philanthropic activities. OEF’s Executive Director Colleen Cassity explains, “The Oracle Education Foundation aims to empower students -- especially girls -- with the creative confidence to engage with today's technologies, and design tomorrow's innovations. While inclusive of all, OEF gives special attention to student populations historically underrepresented in STEAM studies and careers, including girls and students of color.

“Over the course of the 28-hour workshop, all students gained skills and experience that radically increased their confidence with the technologies we used. Four teams of students applied for and received "extension scholarship" from OEF to take their prototypes to the next level. A month later, they demoed their new and improved prototypes for their class and the Oracle Volunteer coaches.”

Leading up to the workshop, Adafruit provided feedback and suggestions on what lessons, FLORA components, and projects would best serve the students and the goals of the program. Factors like time allotted, prior experience of volunteer instructors, and access to tools were considered as OEF worked closely with the Adafruit team. OEF included Adafruit video tutorials into the workshop’s curriculum, demonstrating several do-it-yourself wearable technology projects as inspiration for the students.

Toward the end of the workshop, Adafruit devoted a special episode of the Adafruit Electronics Show & Tell (held via Google+ Hangout On Air) to the girls’ projects. Adafruit’s founder, Limor “Ladyada” Fried, and Adafruit’s Director of Wearable Electronics, Becky Stern, provided feedback and accolades to the girls as they demonstrated their prototype wearables.

This one workshop served as a pilot for an expanding wearables program at OEF being built by a dozen female Oracle engineers. They aimed to establish a replicable kit of parts and curriculum that can be used many times as the program scales.

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