Silicon Valley has always been a male-dominated world. Based on reports submitted by leading tech companies like Google and Intel, 71 percent of their employees are men and 29 percent are women. But not at Parsons School of Design, part of The New School, where these statistics are reversed. In our Design and Technology MFA program, women make up roughly 70 percent of our students
Two graduates from this program, Nicole Messier and Joselyn McDonald, are taking an innovative grassroots approach to addressing the usual tech/gender inequalities. They created the award-winning blink blink project that invites girls to engage in early, hands-on exploration of simple circuits. These unique “creative circuit kits” contain tools that allow young users to actually engineer DIY arts, crafts, and fashion technology projects, from LED light-up scarves and leggings to pressure sensors for wearable fashion. The kits also generates data for the blink blink team so they can monitor its use.
Blink blink was born of its creators’ integrated passions for technology and creativity. At Parsons, McDonald, a filmmaker turned technology designer, and Messier, an aerospace engineer, discovered the creative possibilities of 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 would prefigure the later 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 development of more DIY projects designed specifically for girls.
The New School, with its commitment to early and equal access to education, is a force of technological and cultural progress. Be a Force of New.