TechGYRLS program seeks to empower elementary school girls in Bethlehem

By Danielle Nelson

*This article is posted on The Express Times website.

TechThe YWCA of Bethlehem’s TechGYRLS program continued at Donegan Elementary School on July 14, 2014, as participants began working on robots. Photo Credit Troy Strozeski


A handful of elementary school girls are spending their summer building robots, designing video games and animating cartoons online.

Who knew science could be so much fun?

The TechGYRLS summer program, run by the Bethlehem YWCA, hosts 15 girls ages 7 to 11 at Donegan Elementary School in the city.

“We want to help empower them and help to encourage them early that careers in engineering, science, technology and math are really important,” said Nayab Khan, program instructor and coordinator.

Last week, the girls were divided into two groups with each tasked with building a robot out of more than 600 red, black, gray and white Lego Mindstorms EV3 pieces.

The girls followed a series of tutorial videos on YouTube in order to build the robots and learn the mechanics behind their creations. They’ll eventually learn how to program and move the machines and maybe even learn how to make them dance, Khan said.

Halfway through building the robots, the nine participating girls were eager to choose names for their machines. Lynn, Eva, Nayab and Alexia were some of the ideas they proposed. They settled on the names Alexia-Bot and Eva.

Trinity Buenrostro, who returned to the program for the summer, said she wants to be a scientist when she is older. The 10-year-old said she was inspired by her dad, who works with computers, but wants to help her mother who suffers from lupus.

“I want to come up with a cure,” Buenrostro said.

TechGYRLS is a year-round program, providing after-school technology education to Bethlehem elementary and middle school girls when summer is over.

Three weeks into the program, the girls learned coding, online animation and how to make e-cards. As the summer continues, they’ll tackle video game design.

Lynn Harrison, director of the YWCA’s empowerment center and development, said the program runs 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays.

“I like TechGYRLS because it keeps me occupied,” 11-year-old Nevaeh Cartagena said

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