Recently, members of the Dolby.io team had the opportunity to participate in a virtual field trip with IGNITE. IGNITE’s (Inspiring Girls Now in Technology Evolution) mission is to close the gender gap in STEM. While women are nearly half of the U.S. workforce, they only make up 27% of STEM workers.
Virtual Field Trip with IGNITE
A virtual field trip through IGNITE is 90 minutes total, consisting of meeting with a classroom of students, participating in a panel, Q&A session, and workshop. Additionally, there was time spent by the Dolby.io team prior to the event to sync on the plan for the workshop, attend IGNITE panelist training, and prepare materials for the workshop.
Why are social impact events important?
The importance of events like these can’t be understated. As myself and many of my colleagues can attest, when we were the students’ age we didn’t see software engineers that were women. To put it bluntly, you can’t be what you can’t see. By sharing our stories with the students, we can be role models to inspire the future engineers that Dolby.io will be working with one day.
The Dolby.io workshop: How to build a Halloween app
The structure of the virtual field trip was a quick introduction of Dolby.io, introduction of the career panelists, panelist Q&A, and the workshop. Through the panelist Q&A, the students were able to enter their questions into the chat.
For our workshop, our aim was to give the students a high level overview of how an API works, how to come up with a user persona, and building out a basic wireframe for a web application. Our team decided on a Halloween theme since our workshop was only a few days away from the holiday itself. To touch on these concepts, the objective of the workshop was to build a Halloween Application using a fictional Halloween API.
After we shared with students the goal of the workshop (to build a Halloween App using a Halloween API), students were split into breakout rooms with the panelists. First, we did a quick brainstorm of their favorite Halloween activities. Then, students were asked, “who is the user persona of this application?” – in kid-friendly language, another way to phrase that was “who is the audience of our application?” Students then decided on a scale from one to ten how scary they wanted the app to be. Finally, the leaders of the breakout room guided students in answering the question, “If this is our user persona, what features could we add to our application to delight them?”
Now that the brainstorming portion was complete, we did another quick review of how an API works and what resources the Halloween API gives us. We then jumped into adding features into our wireframe. If there were resources missing to our API for our features to work, we made note of them.
Finally, students spend the last portion of the workshop deciding how the features would appear in the application. In my group’s case, whose user persona was a teenager their age that wanted a 10/10 scary application, they decided to add a zombie clown jump scare feature, where the user would be startled with a jump scare three minutes after visiting the app.
Best (or better) practices to run a smooth event
In order for the virtual event to run smoothly with the students, there are some best practices to keep in mind. One is to leverage visual aids while presenting. Having visuals or text to convey agenda or goals can help ensure that students are engaged and still able to understand even if there are spotty connection issues. Additionally, opting for more kid-friendly language to describe technical concepts is ideal (“when this shows up on the screen” vs “when this renders on the browser”).
There are certainly extra challenges that come with connecting to students virtually while giving a workshop, especially with students you are meeting for the first time. Personally, as a former teacher, I missed being able to walk among the students during the activity to make sure that everyone was engaged and make connections. Not being able to see student’s names or using the chat during the breakout groups was certainly a challenge, but encouraging participants with some cool Dolby treats seemed to do the trick.
Our experience as IGNITE volunteers
Our team had a fantastic time volunteering at the virtual field trip with IGNITE. We are proud of our paths that led us to Dolby.io, the work we are able to do in our day to day job, and the chance to volunteer our time to inspire the next generation of women in STEM.
We hope this blog inspires you to participate in more social impact events! To learn more about IGNITE, check out their website as well as the blog post they wrote about this event. There are other nonprofits that also support women and girls in STEM, including Girls who Code and Women Who Code.
Special thanks to the IGNITE team – Caitlin Duke, Amber Zertuche, and Cathy Rodgveller; Grandview High School; the Dolby Social Impact Team – Kara Petros and Simone Price; and our Dolby.io volunteers – Katie Gray (author), Jaye Sosa, Gianna Scioletti, Diana Haas, and Jessica Zhu.