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Dr. Paula MacDowell Empowering Girls to Pursue Education in Engineering & Tech

April 17, 2018
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Original story via SFU Innovates

Of the many innovations and research projects that will be sure to amaze at this year’s #BCTECH Summit, one thing is certain: SFU researcher Paula MacDowell’s dedication to empowering youth through education and technology will be sure to inspire attendees and future generations. MacDowell, a design and technology specialist from Simon Fraser University’s Faculty of Education will be at the 2018 #BCTECH Summit, showcasing her research and advocacy initiatives that empower youth through education and technology. 

In summer 2017, MacDowell worked closely with female high school students on an equity-oriented Makeathon that had a focus on “Tech for Change,” a project done in partnership with Westcoast Women in Engineering, Sciences and Technology (WWEST). The event integrated creative computing, collaborative prototyping, mentorship and small group experiences—which allowed for a more intimate learning and team-oriented environment—while having access to diverse tools and materials. The challenge presented to student teams was to develop a mobile app that addressed an issue that teen girls face in local or global communities. Through this challenge, students learned how to identify complex problems, develop effective solutions and create change for the betterment of society through the development of mobile apps. The end result: student teams successfully created a wide-range of apps with themes that advocated for social responsibility, environmental change and sustainable living. 

MacDowell explains, “Today’s youth are our future leaders, innovators and changemakers in the tech industry. I am passionate about creating more opportunities for youth to be the makers, coders and inventors of the media and technologies that make our world. This year at #BCTECH, I look forward to networking with entrepreneurs and creative minds, as well as engaging youth in conversation about rewarding careers in tech. I also want to spread the word about my research on high school girls making apps to confront issues faced by teens around the world. Nothing is better than mobilizing and empowering youth with the confidence and skills to take collaborative action in creating a more inclusive tech sector for everyone.”

Who are we to argue? MacDowell’s enthusiasm for creating opportunities for youth—specifically girls—has been apparent from the start of her career. Her research and apps developed by female high school students are proof of what females—of all ages—are capable of when provided the opportunity of equitable education.

Learn more about MacDowell's research.