Full STEAM Ahead: Texas Middle School Girls Experience Virtual Innovate(her) Conference

The Capital One and UT Dallas event brings together young female students with the goal of inspiring them to pursue their interests in fields such as science, technology, engineering, arts, and math. This year, new activities also taught attendees how to create logos for their personal brand and prepare for future job interviews.

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With March being Women’s History Month, Capital One and UT Dallas have taken it as an opportunity to expand the scope of the annual Innovate(her) program, which is meant to empower girls to pursue their passions in fields where they are currently underrepresented.
 
Innovate(her) brings together young female students with an early interest in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math), and connects them with female Capital One Associates, UTD students, and entrepreneurs who serve as their mentors. The program serves to combat the trend of women becoming disengaged from STEAM fields and careers as they grow older at considerably higher rates than men, according to Capital One.
 
This year’s virtual conference was held on March 26th. Among the five schools that participated in the event were St. Paul Catholic Classical School in Richardson and Richardson North Junior High, in addition to individual students who joined from various other schools. 
 
“We were thrilled to reach students all over the state with this virtual event,” said Monica Shortino, Director of Social Innovation at Capital One. “Middle schoolers are so eager to explore and ask questions.”
 
In addition to students coding their own apps, using design thinking to improve solutions to real human needs, and learning the basics of electronics, budgeting, and entrepreneurship, this year’s program expanded its reach beyond STEAM.

A screenshot from a finance workshop during the event.

A new activity called “Logo Love” guided students through the basics of design principles and how to create a logo for their personal brand, and another activity provided them with tips on preparing for the college application process and future job interviews. These additions were created to equip participants with the skills and experiences necessary to be knowledgeable, engaged, and confident students and citizens of the world.
 
“I learned so many new things,” said Sydney V., a fifth grader at Homestead Elementary School in Lewisville ISD. “I have an interest in technology and programming, so I loved that I was able to attend the coders session and code my own app. I actually started coding in kindergarten.”

A screenshot from a coding workshop during the event.

Payton N., a seventh grader at Reynolds Middle School in Prosper ISD, said, “I really liked learning how to make logos in the logos session. I’ll be ready to go when I start my own business.”

In a survey sent to last year’s participants, the impact of the event on the girls’ skills and engagement in STEAM fields was clear, with students expressing on average:

  • A 45 percent increase in confidence in their ability to handle personal finances.
  • A 34 percent increase in understanding of design thinking.
  • A 22 percent increased interest in a technology career.
  • A 20 percent increased interest in becoming an entrepreneur.

 

For Capital One, this partnership with UT Dallas is part of its larger Impact Initiative launched in October 2020—a five-year commitment to provide resources and support to local, underserved communities. As a large company with a powerful platform, Innovate(her) is said to be a continued expression of Capital One’s commitment to decreasing the gaps in opportunity that prohibit socioeconomic mobility for many groups in Texas and the United States.
 
“I can’t say enough about our partnership with Capital One,” Dresden Goldberg, Director of Programs and Operations at UTD’s Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, said in a statement. “It’s more an extended family. Through this event, we’re giving girls the experiences so they’re more likely to attend college. It makes me so happy to know how much we are impacting their future.”

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