I want to teach girls to code – doing it with jewellery isn’t frivolous

For the past year or so, I have been helping build a wearable device teaching girls to program. My co-founder and I wanted to create something that would get girls excited about coding and making things on their own, so we began Jewelbots – friendship bracelets for the iPhone era.

The most surprising feedback we’ve heard so far is “why jewellery? Isn’t that just reinforcing stereotypes?” or “why does it have to be jewellery, do you think girls won’t understand it if it’s not something girly?” or “oh, I guess it’s good to get them hooked on something frivolous, and then they can have the skills to work on something more meaningful”.

All of these ideas just ring incredibly false to me. As a woman, I’ve worn jewellery my entire life, and I’ve never thought of it as frivolous. I made friendship bracelets at camp and shared them with my friends. I didn’t take them off ever, letting them get ratty and faded until they eventually disintegrated after weeks of running around and  swimming. I inherited my great grandma’s ring when I was 10 and I haven’t taken it off since. When I got married, I had a new ring, that was both a private symbol of my relationship and a public declaration of love. None of this is frivolous to me.

With wearable tech, we are beginning to blend the collection of data and communication with our own personal style. As our wearable devices are woven into the fabric of our lives, they will gain sentimental value too. Maybe not the kind of heirlooms that will be passed down, but meaningful objects that will have memories and stories of their own.

In our research talking to girls, one thing that was consistently true was they value – above all else – their relationships. Their bonds with one another are strong, and nurturing those relationships is of the utmost importance to them. We want to create a device enabling creativity and communication between friends. It is on purpose that there are no screens. We want girls to use their imaginations. To come up with ways to talk to their friends that mimic the secret codes and special language they already share with each other. We want to create an object that let’s them facilitate what is important to them: communication with each other.

To introduce girls to a new concepts, why not start with something familiar, something they know?  For a lot of girls – including this one – computer science can seem foreign, intimidating and not “for them”. That’s why we wanted to create Jewelbots – to create something beautiful, powerful and, most importantly, for them.

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MORE! Read WGSN Global Content Chief Carla Buzasi’s take on Jewelbots here.

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