I was thrilled to be invited and had the pleasure of presenting a topic at a recent DigiGirlz event in the area sponsored by Microsoft. Held at Waubonsee Community College, I enjoyed the opportunity to interact with these young minds – something that inspires me along with all of SPR's activities around civic engagement.
My presentation was intended to spark interest in STEM or STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, Math) with 200 middle school and high school girls. My agenda included telling a story about Ada Lovelace, introducing an innovation framework, providing an overview of Microsoft HoloLens and facilitating an exercise around innovating with HoloLens. Yes, this was ambitious.
The Original DigiGirl
I began with a story of how Ada Lovelace, the first programmer, was only allowed to study the hard sciences (like those found in STEM). Ada’s mother detested her estranged ex-husband, Ada’s father, who was a poet – causing Ada’s mother to keep Ada from studying the arts. Ada wrote about how her work (with Charles Babbage on the Analytical Engine) was "poetic science", a combination of Ada's science studies plus her love for poetry.
This story sets the stage for the importance of STEAM – or more abstractly, encourages girls to bring their whole selves to their academic studies as well as their careers. By bringing all of themselves, they reveal a unique perspective in everything that they do. This quality of diversity is highly valued and helpful in the innovation process.
I like the simplicity and technology focus of this innovation framework. I adapted it slightly to resonate with this particular audience. Ultimately, I wanted to present a tool that removes the ambiguity from the overused concept of "innovation.” I like how this framework creates four simple categories for innovation, which makes it easier to understand innovation and provides a framework to ease the burden of brainstorming around possible future innovations.
I provided a high-level overview of HoloLens and contrasted mixed reality against augmented reality (its close relative), virtual reality and real life. Our final agenda item was to engage the girls in a brainstorming exercise on how they could use mixed reality (via Microsoft HoloLens) in their lives to enhance it or make it better.
DigiGirlz Get Creative
I was super impressed with their enthusiasm, eagerness to share, and creativity of their ideas. The ideas were really thoughtful, especially given they only had 5 minutes to brainstorm. Below are a few ideas from the audience:
Rianna from Batavia High School shared an idea to make home design faster and safer. Her vision was to use mixed reality to be able to analyze a house design and see flaws or defects before the house is built. This would save time, money and potentially avoid unsafe structures from being built.
Thato from East Aurora High School shared an idea where a HoloLens user could create alternate endings to movies. The expanded idea allows users to create a movie mashup by changing actors and overall customization of the movie and its outcome.
Lucy from Washington High School shared an idea to create a game for HoloLens that would take advantage of holographic aspects generated by HoloLens combined with physical objects that are actually in the room with you.
I was so inspired by the girls and can't wait to have another chance to speak with a similar youth group!