By Mayukh Saha / Truth Theory
Daniela Orozco recalls the situation of the homeless in her hometown of San Fernando was not so bad earlier. Just a high school freshman then, she remembers seeing only one homeless person on her way to school. Things had worsened drastically in the following 4 years. Helping the homeless on their own was not an option as Daniela and her friends were from low-income families themselves.
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The numbers were disturbing as they lived near her school, the park, below the off-ramps, almost everywhere. The number of homeless people in the San Fernando Valley has crossed the 8,000-mark already. The girls settled on the idea of the tent after weighing other options. It was an issue close to their hearts and their community. They had known people who lost their homes because they could not pay their bills.
But they wanted to help them by giving them something other than money, says Veronica Gonzalez, Daniela’s classmate. They hit upon the idea of a portable home; a solar-powered tent that could be rolled into a backpack. Along with 10 other classmates, they began their endeavor, aided by Google and YouTube. This team of 12 was brought together by Evelyn Gomez of DIY Girls, a non-profit. The girls were unacquainted but soon learned to work independently after the initial guidance from Evelyn. They even had #wegetitdone as their inspirational hashtag.
The girls learned new things like the programming language C++ to tackle the technical aspects. The tent has lights, a micro-USB port, two USB ports, a countdown timer, and even a UVC light.
— DIY Girls (@DIYGirls) April 18, 2017
The girls from the SFHS worked tirelessly on their invention for a year. They were encouraged by Evelyn to go after the Lemelson-MIT Program’s $10,000 grant. Aided by that in December 2016, this DIY Girls InvenTeam finally completed the invention in 2017.
For 6 days every week, the girls worked on the project, even giving up their spring and winter breaks. They destroyed the first tent they made only to check its durability. They made another one. In the process, they went on to learn valuable engineering lessons. As the grant was only for the invention, DIY Girls raised another $15,000 for their trip to MIT for EurekaFest in June 2017.
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DIY Girls helps girls from low-income communities to learn math, engineering, and science. Founded in 2011 by Luz Rivas, DIY Girls started with 35 girls in 2012 and has since helped over 2000 girls between grades 4 and12 to develop skills in design and engineering. They hold workshops and work in partnership with schools helping the trained children connect with tech leaders.
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Their success was featured by regional TV stations and even Ryan Seacrest on his morning show. The team is eager to inspire other girls to pursue STEM careers.
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Paola Valtierra and Kassandra Salazar remember being the only 2 girls in their AP Calculus class and were eager that the trend should change.