Flower STEM: The Girly Side of Innovative Thinking

By Maura Sheedy – 12th Grade, Oakland Catholic High School

Since men dominate math and science related fields, girls recently have been pushed to defy these patriarchal stereotypes and pursue careers in these fields. However, to many young girls, engineering is not a glamorous job, like modeling or singing. This is a common misconception – STEM can be applied to many more disciplines, many of which could interest girls of all ages, rather than what is ordinarily associated with careers in math and science.

Most of us do not associate fashion design with science and math. In reality, fashion design is an excellent example of combining art and engineering to literally make a new piece of clothing. This summer, the Homewood branch of the Carnegie Library has set up a series of fashion design workshops to teach elementary and middle school girls that engineering can be suited towards their interests. The girls meet every Saturday to make a new clothing item that will eventually be showcased at an end-of-program fashion show where the participants will model their creations. Today’s project was tutus.

Toi, 14, selected pink, orange, black, and lime green fabric for a funky design and then got straight to work. Tyra, 10, began by expertly sketching her tutu idea and selecting tulle pieces in red, white, and blue hues to make a patriotic tutu. “I am doing American colors in light to dark,” she told me.  She likes fashion, as does fellow member Janya, 11.  She explained, “The tutus are easy to make because I like making them and it’s always easy when you like doing it.” She added that the tutus are her favorite project they have made so far.

The program coordinators, Shimira Williams and Maureen Head, each bring something different to the table: Shimira focuses on the STEM aspect and Maureen supplies the creative ideas and artistic abilities. Both feel strongly though that even though making the different fashions is fun, the workshops have a bigger purpose – to encourage girls to see that science, technology, engineering, and math can be interesting, enjoyable, and possibly something for them to aspire professionally.

“STEM can be for girls and can be so girly too – not just hard core boy stuff,” Maureen explained.

Shimira and Maureen certainly did a superb job exciting the girls. The girls eagerly told me that had already made bags from t-shirts (with help and supplies from the Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse) and have plans to make tie-dyed shirts, accessories, and decorate converse tennis shoes. They incorporate STEM by concocting new projects, determining how to do them,  drawing diagrams of their plans, and soon adding mechanical aspects to their designs. Each week, the participants also earn a badge from Pittsburgh City of Learning. By making tutus, they received a “tulle tweak” badge.
The girls certainly are having fun in addition widening their perspective towards these previously-perceived “boy things.” The program’s fashion show will conclude the workshop series on August 22 in Homewood Library’s auditorium. Be sure to come by and see their awesome designs. See below for a behind-the-scenes look at their workshop while they worked on their tutus.



Maura Sheedy 1Maura Sheedy is a rising senior at Oakland Catholic High School who lives in Thornburg.  She previously has been a part of Young Writers Institute.  She considers random things she has seen on the Internet to be her muse for her writing. She enjoys lacrosse, cheer, dance, and blogging.

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