Tech Kit for Girls Aims to Lessen a Gender Gap

Slingshot’s kit challenges girls to solve a problem posed in the form of a story.  Credits: Rutgers Today

PISCATAWAY, NJ - The president’s daughter has been kidnapped. “This is where you come in,” read the typewritten, terse instructions. “You are the chosen one. The fate of Sasha’s life is in your hands. If you choose to accept this, open the enclosed briefcase.”

The story is fiction, thankfully – but the briefcase is real. The small metal box unlatches to reveal a miniature computer, display and cables, along with instructions to create a spy camera to help solve the kidnapping.

Created by a group of 19 students in their capstone course for the information technology and informatics major in the Rutgers School of Communication and Information (SCI), the briefcase is the first educational technology subscription kit designed to help girls 11-14 learn programming and technology skills.

Sign Up for E-News

The project and company – both dubbed “Slingshot” –  are driven by a market need: the gender disparity in the technology field, notes Sree Vuthaluru, a capstone student leader. “Slingshot aims to lessen this gender gap by introducing technology and design concepts to girls at a young age.”

“There were 30,000 test takers for Advanced Placement computer science in 2014, and out of them, only 30 percent were female,” points out Nicole Yip, a leader of the capstone group, which pitched the project in May to a group of six judges at the annual ITI Showcase spring 2016 event. Only 25 percent of the computing workforce is female, while women hold only 17 percent of CIO positions in the U.S. information technology sector.

Using a story to reach and involve girls is beneficial, Yip says, "because we found that girls in that [11-14] age group are more engaged in story-based projects.” “Each kit comes with a story that makes the girl the main character ready to go out and solve a mission.”

Each month, the latest kit delivers a story along with parts, instructions and links to Slingshot’s website videos and community forum. All are aimed to equip girls to develop skills in problem solving, analysis, critical thinking, technology and programming. 

The company and kit idea were sketched and developed in about nine weeks, aided by the guidance and facilities of Rutgers Makerspace, part of the Rutgers Division of Continuing Studies.

“It’s easy for the students to talk about the stories,” explains Rick Anderson, director of Rutgers Makerspace, who worked with the capstone students throughout the spring semester. “The physical part is the challenge.They have to tell the story using pictures and objects so their project will integrate for the girls who  get the kits.”

Applying the “making” of things in educational curricula from grade school and beyond is a growing trend. Makerspaces – workshops offering tools and learning experiences to support people carrying their ideas –  are founded on "an openness to experiment, iterate, and create,” according to material from the New Media Consortium’s Horizon Project, among “artists, tech enthusiasts, engineers, builders, tinkerers and anyone else who has a passion for making things.”

For the Slingshot prototype, the ITI  capstone students met weekly at Rutgers Makerspace’s garage/workspace setting at 35 Berrue Circle on the Livingston Campus in Piscataway. Stocked with tools ranging from glue guns and screwdrivers to 3D printers and laser cutters, Makerspace is open for drop-in hours from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. during the week.

The students met at Makerspace to align parts ordered from manufacturers into a prototype and to build out the story and instructions for their target customer group. A hardware team built the prototype briefcase. A software team created an interface that supports a Scratch computer language program that the girls can program to operate the spy camera.

The end result: Using what’s she’s assembled right in the briefcase, the girl can take her photo and create a profile to help solve the kidnapping.

“It’s all kinds of making,” explains Anderson about how Makerspace was instrumental for the ITI project. “You’re making multiple media, robots and kits. They ‘3-D printed’ a camera mount, did vinyl cutting, used a Raspberry Pi [tiny computer] as part of the kit they assembled.”

To bring the product to market, the team pitched using Dragon Innovation, a manufacturing company, and KickStarter for funding the product and to prove the concept.

“I’d call it social hardware, because it’s ‘social media meets the hardware,’” says Anderson of Slingshot. “Their kits are part of their website. And their kits are part of the social [media] in the community [website]. And the kits are part of their stories.”

Sharon Stoerger, director of the Information, Technology, and Informatics program in SCI’s Department of Library and Information Science, says the capstone students are given a charge as they kick off their project: “Use what you’ve learned” in the course of their Rutgers career.

The course bridges a traditional classroom with the Makerspace and other out-of-classroom team meetings. It combines communications, science, business and entrepreneurship disciplines, Stoerger says –  along with doses of ingenuity and creativity. 

For a second story, the students built a prototype automated miniature car and outlined and pitched an education company focused on STEM to bring the subscription kit product to market. To bring the product to market, the team proposed using Dragon Innovation, a manufacturing company, and a KickStarter campaign to fund the product and further prove the concept.

About Rutgers MakerspaceAn open floor plan of classrooms, rooms for prototyping equipment, workshop, workstations, and offices, it is part of the Rutgers Center for Innovation Education within the Rutgers Division of Continuing Studies. Makerspace serves a diverse constituency within and outside the university: faculty, staff, students, K-12 teachers and students through programs focused on technology education, creativity and “do-it-yourself,” youth programs, user experience design and related areas.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

South Brunswick-Cranbury

Upcoming Events


Wed, August 22, 8:30 AM

American Legion Post 253, Spotswood

Bus Trip to AC Air Show

Giving Back Other

Sat, October 27, 12:00 PM

East Jersey Old Town Village, Piscataway

Revolutionary War Encampment

Arts & Entertainment Education Food & Drink

South Brunswick and Cranbury Police Blotter

August 9, 2017

Sponsored by Reilly's Collision Center in Monmouth Junction. Click here and scroll down for the latest updates and alerts from South Brunswick and Cranbury Police.

See the most recent messages from South Brunswick Twp Police Department, powered by Nixle.

Prosecutor: FBI Agent Took Improper Photos of Woman in Dressing Room

July 20, 2018

NEW BRUNSWICK,NJ  - An FBI agent was arrested and charged with illegally photographing a 22-year-old woman in a dressing room, Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew Carey said today.

The agent, Danuel Brown, 30, of Piscataway, was arrested was Thursday and charged with a single count of fourth-degree invasion of privacy for allegedly using his cell phone to take pictures of the woman while ...

Bob Caruso (Dayton) Wins Professional Bowlers Seniors Tournament

SOUTH BRUNSWICK, NJ - Bob Caruso, a "50 Super Senior" (entry is age 60 or over) won last week's  Professional Bowling Tournament at the Cecil Raymond Memorial Tournament in Deptford, New Jersey.  The PBA50 tour is open to Professional Bowlers with a minium entry age of 50. 

After eight games of the qualifying round, Caruso was in second place with a score ...

Nearly $900K Bid Received for Construction of New New Brunswick Park

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - Only one company submitted a bid to build a new city park on land where three abandoned houses once stood.

A-Tech Concrete of Edison submitted a bid of $897,316.25 to construct a park on Welton Street, near Drift Street.

This was the only bid that city Purchasing Department received before the deadline this morning.

New Brunswick demolished three abandoned home on the ...

Mayors Push for Law Permitting Driver's License for Immigrants

July 20, 2018

PERTH AMBOY, NJ - Five mayors from northern and central New Jersey today called for passage of a state law permitting immigrants to get driver's licenses even if they are undocumented, saying it boosts public safety as well as the economy.

"This is important for every resident for a better life and a better life for the state of New Jersey," said Perth Amboy Mayor Wilda ...

Rutgers Hikes Tuition, Student Fees for 2018-2019 Academic Year

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - Rutgers University Board of Governors today approved a 2.3 percent hike in tuition and fees, as well as increases for dorm rooms and meals, for the 2018-2019 academic year.

The increase now brings the annual cost for undergraduate students to $14,975, which is $337 more than this past school year.

Student housing will increase 1.9 percent, and ...

Rutgers Prof to Climb Alps for Climate Change Study on Glaciers

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - Lauren Neitzke Adamo has long enjoyed hiking along trails and through forests and over rock formations largely to see the natural surroundings.

“I’ve been a huge science nerd all my life,” said Adamo, who has a doctorate degree and is co-director of the Rutgers University Geology museum in New Brunswick.

Next month Adamo will head to the Swiss Alps ...

To Our Current and Future Representatives

July 17, 2018

To Our Current and Future Representatives - Wherever They May Be:

We can never forget we are a nation of immigrants. 

We cannot fall prey to fear, ignorance and anger when we  have been historically driven by freedom and justice. 

We must have the courage and will to fight hate, bigotry and prejudice. 

We must not wake up to what we hoped was a bad dream and ...

The Somerset Patriots And 9-1-1 On FOX Are Looking For Hero First Responders

July 20, 2018

The Somerset Patriots and 9-1-1 On FOX are asking for Hero First Responder nominations from the community.

Nominate a first responder to be recognized on the field during the pre-game ceremony and throw out a ceremonial first pitch at the Saturday, August 4th Somerset Patriots game against the New Britain Bees at TD Bank Ballpark. Three first responders will be chosen from the nominations to ...

Craft Fair & Flea Market at SBPL July 28

Stop by our Craft Fair/Flea Market on Saturday, July 28 from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at the South Brunswick Public Library, 110 Kingston Lane in Monmouth Jct. Dozens of vendors will be set up inside and outside of the Library building. click on link for a list of vendors…/20…/07/Craftfair-and-Flea-Market.pdf

Hidden in Plain Sight!

Painted Rocks 2018 Summer Reading -  Libraries Rock!

Hidden in Plain Sight!

About 40 gaily painted rocks have been hidden in outdoor public areas around South Brunswick Township as part of our 2018 Libraries Rock! Summer Reading Challenge. The challenge of course is to first find the rock. It will be painted with a random colorful image on one side and instructions on the underside.

Crowdfunding Options for Entrepreneurs and Small Businesses

Source: Many small start-up businesses and tech ventures in search of capital turn to popular online platforms for crowd fundraising of financial resources to get their concept off the ground and launched into market. Indiegogo, Kickstarter, and GoFundMe, to name a few, offer solutions in generating cash to fund new ideas. How do you get people to contribute to your cause?  Sam Burlum ...