Maureen Botros, 18, of Wichita, Kan., a member of Girl Scouts of Kansas Heartland and a home-schooled senior, founded a series of weeklong technology camps to promote the idea that girls can succeed in STEM fields without sacrificing their femininity. “My passion is to address the gender gap in STEM through the development of new strategies to advance women’s empowerment and combat patriarchal norms that too often try to prevent women from realizing their potential,” said Maureen.
A few years ago, she set out to combat childhood obesity by inventing a wearable device called the “Illumi-cize,” which measures heart rate and displays the results via colored lights on fashion accessories including hair bows, necklaces, belts, tutus and T-shirts. Her technology camps give middle and high school girls the opportunity to design and construct their own creative versions of the Illumi-cize. They learn to sew with conductive thread, solder wires and LED lights, and ultimately code a microchip to power their chosen accessories, ranging from suspenders to purses to scarves. Each “Catwalk Coding” camp culminates in a runway fashion show and a reception attended by campers’ families and accomplished local women in STEM careers. Approximately 25 girls have participated in each of Maureen’s six camps in the U.S.; an additional 100 girls took part in a Mexico City camp conducted by Maureen last November.