With Cambridge, MA well known throughout the world, it’s not surprising to see MIT looking to bring on the next generation of engineers. They have been running an event called Girls Who Build Cameras, aimed at high school girls, teaching them everything from how to actually make a camera, to coding the fancy filters we’ve all come to love on Instagram.

Teaching girls engineering is an investment in our future workforce. Women are an untapped resource in the growing field of STEM [science, technology, engineering, and math]. The most effective way to spark a girl’s interest in engineering is showing her how it is applied to her passion — whether it is fashion, health care, energy, or education.
Kristen Railey, Advanced Undersea Systems and Technology Group, MIT

This kind of initiative is an absolutely fantastic opportunity to bring on a strong pipeline of graduates for essential engineering roles. Many companies turn to overseas recruitment, or have longer lead times on vacancies than would be ideal, because not enough domestic graduates take the engineering route through school. With girls traditionally underrepresented in the field, that does indeed represent a big opportunity to close the skills gap.

One of the biggest challenges that will face this generation is the power and simplicity of devices, such as tablets, where very little opportunity to ‘tinker’ is present, whereas many in their late 20s and early 30s now will have had their first experiences with basic computers that had a command line and developed an immediate understanding of how to give computers instructions.

Taking a step back, and showing these girls not only how the cameras are constructed, but helping them to understand some core programming concepts behind their favorite image apps, like Instagram, will no doubt sow the seeds for some future creativity.

When you’re planning your next corporate or team building event, putting some thought into activities that could teach your employees skills beyond those immediately obvious or necessary in their day to day work can yield similar large benefits. Logical thinking, planning and an understanding of how things work can find applications way beyond apps like Instagram, and so will have proven extremely valuable for attendees, even those who pursue other fields in life.