Girls in Tech, Virtually a Reality
Minnesota Aspirations in Computing Partners are making incredible strides to displace ‘Virtually a Reality’ with ‘Definitely a Reality’ for all young women with the passion to learn and love tech.
A day at REM5, a Virtual Reality (VR) Lab in St. Louis Park, MN, drove home this very point. Like the disruptive force of VR technology, today’s women in tech, are breaking the false code that technology is best designed and delivered by men.
PowerUP IT Mentors (Chikio Richmond, Kelly Martin, Bailey Hadnott, Shannon Dulnuan, and Antoinette Smith) learn more about REM5 from co-owner Travis Hoium. The mentors loved hanging out in the VR lab.
PowerUP IT mentors joined forces with the Minnesota Aspirations in Computing Program (MNAiC) to send a clear message to girls in high school that they clearly belong in the tech space. In its 8th year, MNAiC offers year-round experiences to inspire and empower young women in secondary schools to grow confidence and sharpen their technical competence.
The day at REM5 was a sneakpeek for a number of students who were in the process of completing their MNAiC 2020 national and state awards program application. The dozen award applicants with a curiosity for all things technology discovered first-hand how Virtual Reality augments real-life experiences. They arrived prepared and excited to explore and engage with VR for the first time, and they had a blast! SPARCS in partnership with REM5 treated the young women and PowerUp IT mentors to a memorable VR gaming experience, entertainment, lunch, an awesome lab space and sisterhood – It was an epic experience!
REM5 co-owner Travis Hoium addresses an Aspirations in Computing audience, ready to explore VR’s limitless boundaries.
According to REM5 co-owner, Travis Hoium, “VR for impact also extends to areas like law enforcement and diversity, equity, and inclusion, where we’re working with partners to develop curriculum that police officers, corporations, and schools are now using to improve their empathy and effectiveness in the community. Walking in someone else’s shoes virtually is the closest we can get to physically being in their shoes, which makes VR a powerful technology for many high impact initiatives.”
What a special treat it was for the young ladies in attendance. The students from seven metro area high schools were mentored by PowerUp IT women and devoted partner, Minnesota STEM Partnership (aka Dr. Michael Wulf). Over many weeks the mentors were involved in a variety of outreach efforts to encourage and support a variety of students who may not otherwise apply for the annual award opportunity that recognizes technology abilities, interests, accomplishments, and community engagement.
Thanks in large part to the commitment and work of the mentors – all women of color working in the technology industry – the applicant pool realized a significant increase in applicants from urban settings. Overall, applications grew by 30% to 163 submissions from throughout Minnesota and realized a 35% increase in high school involvement over 2018. Applications are currently being reviewed by national and state reviewers and will be selected in categories ranging from Rising Star to State and National top-level honorees.
2018 Aspirations honoree Claire Jensen from South High School in Minneapolis submitted her 2020 application with the goal of being selected for a higher level award. She had this to say about the REM5 experience — “I loved hearing about entrepreneurship and what it takes to start your own business, as well as hearing a local success story in entrepreneurship. I loved getting real exposure to VR and experimenting with different technologies that I would've otherwise never had the opportunity to use. It made me think of the possibilities of what I could do with VR and how problems could be fixed using this technology. I think the virtual reality was something that I thought of as impossible to attain, but after attending the REM5 event, I realize it's more easily accessible than I thought.”
Special thanks to REM5 owners, Travis Hoium and Amir Berenjian, as well as the following PowerUP IT Mentors:
- Shelley Andrew, Minnesota Twins
- Shannon Dulnuan, Tennant Companies
- Bailey Hadnott, Barr Engineering
- Karen Martin, LyNetwork Global Services and BDPA
- Kelly Martin, Anderson Liquor Distributors and BDPA
- Eri O’Diah, Collective.ly Digital
- Porsche Page, Gillette-Children’s Hospital
- Bianca Rhodes, St. Paul Neighborhood Network
- Chikio Richmond, Comcast Business
- Janelle Rose, Rose H20, LLC
- Antoinette Smith, Glitch Software
MNAiC and REM5 share the commitment and challenge of empowering female students and people of color to become our next, best Minnesota-grown technology talent. For more information on how you, your school, or your business can become involved, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Located in St. Louis Park, MN, REM5 was created to bring premium virtual reality to consumers, businesses, and students. Every aspect of the business is built upon their passion for knocking down the existing accessibility barriers and allowing everyone a chance to play, explore, learn and create in VR. At their core, REM5 is addressing the issues around access and knowledge of virtual reality technology among all potential users.
ABOUT POWERUP IT
PowerUp IT is a program in Minneapolis and St. Paul high schools and select other schools, designed to expose students to IT professionals of color. They are mentored and guided to avail themselves of technology programs within the school and in the broader community to build their technical confidence and competence.
ABOUT MINNESOTA ASPIRATIONS IN COMPUTING
The Minnesota Aspirations in Computing Program seeks to inspire, engage, and empower young women in grades 9-12 to pursue technology education and career paths. More than 100 young women each year are recognized statewide and/or nationally for their computing and technology accomplishments. Participants also gain in-demand technology skills through SPARCS (Sustaining Passion, Ambition, and Resolve for Career Success) events and engage with Minnesota companies through job shadow experiences and summer paid internships.