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Know a Girl Who Loves STEM? Jewelbots Programmable Friendship Bracelets Launch Today

Summer camp trades just went next-level.

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Is there a girl in your life (or are you a girl) aged 9-14 who loves coding, technology, and cute accessories? Well, you’re in luck, because today is the launch of Jewelbots, programmable friendship bracelets that teach their wearers to communicate using Bluetooth and IFTTT technology.

According to the National Science Foundation, the number of female computer science majors has dropped to 18% – lower than it was in the mid-1980s! Jewelbots hopes to give young girls a platform where they can explore critical thinking and problem solving skills, helping to build the foundation for the female STEM leaders of tomorrow.

Jewelbots bracelets have four different LEDs and basic design permutations to facilitate morse-code like communication. An iPhone app is used with the bracelet to program it to do different things. The bracelet is also open source, meaning the possibilities grow with the wearer’s appetite to learn, and they can program the bracelets to do cool stuff like programming the bracelet to light up when their friends are nearby, or receiving a text or when their favorite TV show is on. As the wearer gets it to do more, she’ll be encouraged to go even further!

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Jewelbots launched their Kickstarter today, so you should definitely check it out. It runs until August 4th, and they have a $30,000 goal to bring this product into the world. And obviously, while the creators are trying to address the specific problem of getting more girls involved in STEM and are marketing to girls, these bracelets would also make a great gift for any young person with a feminine sensibility, no matter their gender!

We had the chance to speak exclusively with Jewelbots’ co-founder (as well as the co-founder of Girl Develop It!, a national non-profit that has taught over 17,000 women how to build software), Sara Chipps, to find out more about this awesome new product, and why she believes it’s important.

Teresa Jusino (TMS): How did the idea for Jewelbots evolve?

Sara Chipps: We wanted to make something that was super fun that sparked girls’ interest in technology. We wanted to make a fun platform that they could customize and that would inspire them to figure out how to code. All of the Jewelbot current design and functionality comes from our research with hundreds of girls throughout the country.

TMS: Can a girl get lots of use out of it even if none of her friends have it?

Chipps: Jewelbots are definitely more fun with friends, but you can program your Jewelbot to act as an alarm or, once you get into the advanced functionality, you can program it to do whatever you want.

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TMS: How does the functionality of this accessory translate to a girl understanding coding? Can you walk us through an example of one feature of the Jewelbot and explain how it relates to a bigger coding concept?

Chipps: In addition to the out of the box functionality, the Jewelbots are open source, so the girls can program them to do anything they want. Girls can download the free Arduino software and plug their Jewelbot into the computer and write their own code. If they are just getting started with programming, they can start out by coping and pasting code from our site. They can even get inspired by other girls’ creations and share what they have built with other girls from our community. One example of something they could do is program their Jewelbot to blink every time they have a new Instagram like or follow, or any other kind of notification.

TMS: Many people think things like pink LEGOs or girly doctor sets are unnecessary, and might wonder about the gendered nature of this product. What would you say to someone who objects to the idea that girls need things to be “girly” in order to be appealing and make them interested in things like coding? What is the reasoning behind making this specifically “for girls” by making it a bracelet?

Chipps: The only problem with pink LEGOs is that they didn’t have them from the beginning! Seriously, why on earth would people be mad that a company is trying to be more inclusive of different tastes? Sure, not all girls like pink, not all girls like jewelry. But many do. Many grown women, ourselves included, wear jewelry every day and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. We wholeheartedly reject the notion that traditionally feminine or girlie styles or interests in aesthetics are are weak, frivolous or less than in any way.

Is the Fitbit girlie? What about the Apple Watch? Many wearables are bracelets, we just want to make one that’s cuter and with interactive social functionality. Where is the harm in that?

TMS: What are your plans for the product now that it’s launched? Are there plans to offer girls a line of accessories, apps, or other products down the line?

Chipps: Yes, with our patent pending technology, there are lots of cool products we plan to make in the future. We wanted to start out focused on girls, because they are important to us, and we want to make something awesome that they will love. After our Kickstarter, we plan to go right into manufacturing and get them out on the market as soon as possible!

I, for one, can’t wait to see what the team at Jewelbots comes up with next! Between them and companies like Goldie Blox, we’re living in a thrilling time when there are ever more options for girls who want to explore tech.

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