From the Instructors: Insight into Running a TechGirlz Workshop

Written by Katie Wilson, Marketing Director for Clone Systems.

Is running a TechShop really as easy as TechGirlz makes it sound? Does it require a lot of effort? Is the effort worth the outcome?

We’ve asked two of our instructors to answer those questions and more, and give feedback on what running a TechShop was actually like. From the planning to the implementation to the outcome, this article will divulge both the fun and the challenging parts of running a workshop.

Neha Thomas
Society of Women Engineers – Drexel University
Outreach Chair, Director
Workshop: Ran a three-part TechShop along with the Drexel University Society of Women

Engineers: (SWE)
Zoe Rooney
Owner & Lead Developer
Zoe Rooney Web Development
Workshop: Ran a Photoshop TechShop with the help of TAs.

How much time does running a TechShop take?

  • As with most things, the answer is it depends. It depends on the goals, the lesson, and the support you have from others. For example, Neha’s team ran a three-part workshop series that included working with full-time workers and students.
  • Neha said: “The three workshops were part of a new program that we called the Engineering Summer Series. It was the most ambitious program we’ve done, mostly because this was the first time we did so many workshops in a relatively short time period and because all our planning members were either in school or work full time. The planning and budgeting for the series took about a month—we applied for a program development grant through National SWE a month before the first workshop. Planning each workshop takes about a month, in total, about four months of planning went into the whole program.”
  • Zoe, who ran a one-time Photoshop TechShop, had a different experience. Zoe said: “I created an outline, plans, found materials (images) to use, went through activities myself prior to the event to clarify and practice steps. I’m not sure [how long it took total] – a couple of hours, probably.”

So, there you have it. Planning can take anywhere from a couple of hours to months. It really does depend on the goals of your workshop and what the objectives are overall.

What support do you receive to implement these workshops?

  • Neha’s experience: “About a month before the first workshop on July 26, I emailed several companies in the Philly area asking if they would be interested in providing some instruction for an outreach event. We had a representative from the Applied Informatics Group come to the LEGO workshop, about 10 employees from PECO come to our electrical engineering workshop, and 2 employees from Boeing come to the aerodynamics workshop. Additionally, I gave a short presentation on the activity for each workshop and our Drexel SWE volunteers guided students through a tutorial posted on our webpage. My outreach chair and I planned everything involved with the workshops. We used Eventbrite to publicize our event, and I forwarded this information to several of my contacts from the Drexel community as well as Karen from TechGirlz. All the workshops took place on Drexel’s campus. As a student organization, we can access many labs and rooms for free.”
  • Zoe’s experience: Zoe recruited instructor assistants through Twitter and other connections she had from the tech community to help. She created the lesson plan as well. The TechGirlz organization took care of finding a planning coordinator, registering kids for the workshop and finding a central location for the TechShop to take place.

So, again, the level of support you receive depends on the type of TechShop you’re holding and what your needs and abilities are. If you have a team of volunteers ready to help, that’s great. If you need extra support from TechGirlz, we can provide that as well.

Is the effort worth the outcome?

  • Zoe and Neha agree the effort they put out was worthwhile and that they saw that the workshop have immense value to the girls attending and to the instructors.
  • Zoe said: “I think it’s very important to get girls engaged with technology early so that they understand what it feels like to be successful and feel as though it’s something they may want to pursue as they get older, and know they have choices to make about their paths through school and into the workforce.”
  • Neha said: “It’s so rewarding to see the kids as they develop their understanding of the topics. I love seeing their faces light up when they get something to work or get excited about the activities they’re doing.”

Should you teach a TechShop?

  • Both instructors highly recommend teaching a TechShop.
  • Zoe said: “It’s a lot of fun. Also, it’s always nice to connect with other volunteers/TAs and to practice the basics myself. [I would encourage others to teach a TechShop] mainly because it is fun and rewarding.”
  • Neha said: “I would definitely recommend it because it is so rewarding, both for the participants and instructors. It makes a difference, no matter how small. Also, parents are really appreciative of the free workshops that SWE provides, and it’s nice to know that you helped create something that is both educational and fun for the girls.”

Whether you want to run a one-time workshop or a three-part series, the girls involved will gain knowledge and skills for their future from what you have to teach them.

If you’d like more information on running your own TechShop, visit our TechShopz in a Box page.