Project Profile

Smart Clothing, Smart Girls: Engineering via Apparel Design


Smart Clothing, Smart Girls is a strategy proposal using apparel design as a vehicle to attract middle school girls to STEM learning and engineering careers. Based on a theoretical framework that supports mechanisms for engaging young, female participants in STEM, the project team has thoughtfully designed an intervention that is hands-on, collaborative, and relevant - all combinations that have shown to improve how girls develop STEM identities, build self efficacy, and become motivated to pursue STEM-related activities. The project is developing two types of curricular models, one for on-campus experiences at Cornell and University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, and one for summer camp experiences with partners at 4-H and Girls Inc.

The project applies iterative design research to develop and test the construction of four modules. Relevant STEM topics are introduced each module focusing on the essential components of wearable technologies, which includes understanding material properties (thermal properties, impact protection, etc.), electrical circuits and electronics, 2D to 3D visualization, and the engineering design process. During the first year of the project, curricular modules are being designed and evaluated for a 40 hour summer experience on each campus. The second year, the camp experiences are refined and repeated, informed by evaluation of the first year. 4-H and Girls Inc. educators are deeply involved in the curricular module development so as to become familiar with the content and how to facilitate the modules. And in year three, the project team adapts the modules to formats which will be used by 4-H and Girls Inc. in off-site interactive experiences. Dissemination materials for this project include a detailed website, interactive video clips, and teaching kits (materials and curriculum). A total of 200 girls will test the content modules over three years. Eight leaders from 4-H and Girls Inc. will also be trained in project content delivery.

This project will make significant contributions to the field by furthering what is known about effective engagement strategies for underrepresented populations from urban and rural environments, particularly middle school females, thus changing the way they perceive STEM and STEM careers. It also provides ample opportunity for enhancing the way emerging technologies are incorporated into informal learning environments.


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Co-Principal Investigator(s)
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Award Number
1139466; 1139501
Project Duration
2012 - 2016
Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, Minneapolis, MN
Project Work State
Target Gradespan(s)
Middle school (6-8)
Project Setting(s)
Informal Education
Geographic Location(s)
Project Status
Additional Disciplines
Engineering - design
Additional Target Participants
Black or African American