Where are the women in tech? In computer science programs and at tech companies across the country, there’s a serious gender imbalance. But Jewelbots, a cool, new line of smart friendship bracelets that hook up with a smartphone app, aspire to excite pre-teen girls about their potential as coders and engineers by teaching them the basics of coding.
CEO Sara Chipps (also a developer and co-founder of Girl Develop It, a nonprofit that teaches women to code) and COO and fashion-tech entrepreneur Brooke Moreland are on a mission to make coding popular among pre-teen girls, and what better way to appeal to them than with friendship bracelets for the iPhone era?
Designed to hold a charge for up to three days, each bracelet is bedazzled with a single plastic flower, four LED lights, and a vibration motor. The Bluetooth connected smart bracelets sync up with the smartphone app (iOS and Android).The bracelets–which come in an array of colors–can connect with each other to form a mesh network, which means the wifi and phones aren’t even needed to communicate after the initial setup.
Girls can learn about simple if/then statements, pair their bracelets up with their friends’ to light up or vibrate when they are close to each other (girls can add their friends to different friend groups designated by color, and the bracelet will light up with that color when their friends are nearby), send haptic “secret messages,” and much more.
While the bracelets are functional out of the box, curious coders can go beyond the basic programming to create more personalized, advanced responses using the open-source Arduino Software (IDE). The girls can further explore what wearable technology is capable of, including setting up color light/vibration notifications when someone follows her on Instagram, Mom texts or calls, or that cute boy from class sends a Facebook message.
Based on products like MySpace and Minecraft, which have previously enticed kids to dabble in code, the developers worked with groups of teen girls for feedback on aesthetics and functionality for their Jewelbots concept. They wanted to create a product girls would truly use, so they can learn the fundamentals of computer science while engaging with their friends. Jewelbots incorporates important elements of tween girl life—fashion, technology, and friendship—to hopefully open their minds to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) at an age when many lose interest.
The team has already created two prototypes, and will undergo a third round before testing and manufacturing later this year. Their Kickstarter campaign, which featured the bracelets for $65 each for spring 2016 shipping, successfully raised $166,945 to help fund the project. Despite their simplicity in appearance compared to other wearable tech, Jewelbots brings coding to the real world for girls at an impressionable, yet exciting age.
Watch a video with the creators here:
Photos and video courtesy of Jewelbots
Read more Tech Tuesday features here.