FashionHack brings diverse students into STEM fields

Philly kids with aspirations to invent the next big thing got to show off their work at a weekend science fair that combined technology and fashion.

“I was skeptical in my ability to be an engineer of anything until I started working on these awesome shoes,” said Tyler Sheppard, 17, a senior at Mathematics, Civics and Sciences Charter School who attended the first ever FashionHack, a wearable technology showcase hosted by Temple University’s School of Engineering.

Over 30 minority students who worked at CTW showed off their work at the FashionHack on Saturday.

CTW founder Dr. Jamie Bracey said the event was intended to spotlight the rising interest in STEM studies in predominately minority classrooms.

“If they are hungry for the sciences, I will take them,” Bracey said. “It’s been a pleasure mentoring and connecting them with the proper resources to show this city that students of color are capable of inventing anything.”

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Sheppard presented a fitness shoes with foot-sensory LED lights that will “help signal drivers late at night to know when someone is running in the dark.”

The project took him one month the complete as a new member of Creative Tech Works (CTW) Design Studio, a tech training program for urban students.

Sheppard hopes to attend either Penn State or Villanova post graduation, but since participating in the studio, he is now “reevaluating the game plan.”

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“I thought I wanted to study animation … which is still my top choice, but after seeing how cool it was to hand-make these gadgets myself, I might do engineering,” he said.

“At first it felt awkward working with the boys, but eventually it became normal,” said Monique Mbombo, 17, a junior at George Washington Carver High School who was at FashionHack.

Mbombo, a member of CTW for 3 years, was in charge of creating the electronic accessories and nametags that participants in the event wore.

“Laser cutting, bolt batteries, LED lights, you name it – I’ve done it,” Mbombo said. “I like that we had a tech fashion show because it made me feel like I could show the boys that it’s not that weird. “

Mbombo has her sights set on applying to either Temple or Drexel her senior year. But despite those around her “who doesn’t have a clue what to do,” she is confident in her career goals. “I want to be an engineer,” she said. “Either helping through nursing or medical work, but definitely an engineer.”