Young African Women in Computing (YAWIC), is an initiative by the Nelson Mandela University Department of Computing Sciences in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, that seeks to increase women's participation in computer science and technology. During YAWIC’s most recent Winter Workshop on the 17th and 18th July 2019, high school girls (Grade 8 - 11) from various schools in Port Elizabeth came together to hear about careers in computing on their first day and to learn all about design thinking on their second day. The workshop appropriately concluded on Nelson Mandela International Day which is honoured annually with the spirit of service that Nelson Mandela was known for.
YAWIC has hosted previous workshops in coding and digital literacy for high school girls. For this workshop, we decided to introduce our teens to the concept of design thinking and how to apply it to real world problems. To start off the design thinking workshop, we introduced students to the 5 phases of design thinking: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test. The content of this workshop was inspired by the Design Thinking for Teens Startup Kit as well as Nelson Mandela University's Design in the Digital Domain module. Design Thinking for Teens (DT4T) has a wonderful guide for hosting a 3 hour workshop that covers the essential elements of design thinking especially around the 5 phases of design thinking and applying them to real problems to prototype.
Inspired by the DT4T starter kit, some of the design phases were elaborated on with short activities. For the ideate phase, the 30 circles challenge helped students learn to come up with identifiable concepts as fast as we can. The prototype and testing phases were illustrated with the Spaghetti Marshmallow challenge. After learning about the 5 phases of design thinking, the girls had the opportunity to immediately apply what they learned to help us solve a real problem that we're facing in the department.
YAWIC aims to encourage more young ladies to participate in computing and build confidence in this field to have an impact on increasing the number of women in STEM. Using design thinking, we came together to find as many solutions as we could to this problem. The insight from the girls attending the workshop brought out some creative ideas that they felt would excite them about getting more involved in computing - from funky t-shirts to live streaming our workshops on Facebook and making a mobile app.
Sadly all good things must come to an end but with only 3 hours on the clock, everyone had a chance to contribute to a productive design thinking session that has given us a lot of cool gems to look into to help us tackle the very real problem of increasing the participation of women in STEM, one mind at a time.