Silicon Valley has always been a male-dominated world. According to reports submitted by leading tech companies like Google and Intel, 71 percent of their employees are men and 29 percent are women. In contrast, at Parsons School of Design, part of The New School, these statistics are reversed. Women make up roughly 70 percent of the students in the MFA Design and Technology program.
Two graduates from this program, Nicole Messier and Joselyn McDonald, are taking an innovative grassroots approach to addressing the usual tech/gender inequalities. Messier and McDonald created the award-winning blink blink project,
which invites girls to engage in hands-on exploration of simple circuits. The unique “creative circuit kits” contain tools that allow young users to actually engineer DIY arts, crafts, and fashion technology projects, from light-up LED scarves and
leggings to pressure sensors for wearable fashion. The kits also generate data for the blink blink team, enabling them to monitor the use of the kits.
Blink blink was born of its creators’ passions for technology and creativity. At Parsons, McDonald, a filmmaker turned technology designer, and Messier, an aerospace engineer, discovered the creative possibilities that resulted from bringing together
wearable tech and creative circuits. Hoping to pass on their interest to young girls, they hosted blink blink workshops in middle and high schools and after-school programs, where students created pieces that were used to modify the design of the
blink blink kits.
In December 2014, a first run of blink blink kits was launched for the holidays. The kits flew off the shelves.
Since then, blink blink has garnered numerous awards. McDonald and Messier were given the chance to showcase their project at SXSWedu Playground and took home the Audience Choice Award at 4.0 Schools Pitch Night. In addition, they were named a Maker Faire
Editor’s Choice and received the prestigious New Challenge Grant, offered by The New School to help launch the most promising innovative projects created by students
throughout our university. The team is now raising funds to take the kits to the next level through larger-scale production and manufacturing operations and to develop more DIY projects designed specifically for girls.