Connecting STEM to the CULTURE


It’s no secret that there is little to no representation of black and brown individuals in the technology sector. Current curriculums and programs attempting to address this deficiency often seek to show students opportunities or directly try to convince them to pursue STEM careers. One thing these programs have in common is that they often fail to relate to the students.

Fascinate, Inc. is an organization with a mission to bring cutting-edge technology to underrepresented students nationwide and facilitate pathways into STEM-based careers. Cultural relevancy is their strategy of choice in getting students excited about STEM. The project we chose to focus on relates to the Dope Tech Showcase, a technology showcase held in a local makerspace with students and volunteers of color. Our goal is to work collaboratively in determining a process that will make the Dope Tech Showcase cohesive and replicable over an extended period of time. The result would be a showcase guide that the event organizer and/or volunteers could use to smoothly operate their own Dope Tech Showcase.

For more information, please refer to our case study and presentation.

Connecting STEM to the Culture

 Magic Cool Bus (Fascinate, Inc.)


Design Brief: Paper and Presentation

Fascinate, Inc. is on a mission to bring cutting-edge technology to underrepresented students nationwide, while exciting them about STEM. During the course of the studio, we will be working together to create a cohesive process that will be used to have tech showcases on a consistent basis. We will also reach out to communities in order to get at least 500 people of color committed to being mentors to students of color where they reside.

For this design brief, we used the Activity Analysis and Affinity Diagrams listening methods. We believed the Activity Analysis method would be helpful in detailing what worked well and not so well during past showcases. The Affinity Diagrams method will foster creative ways to pitch the impact of these showcases to prospective partners.

The challenges we anticipate include generating quantifiable results and finding the financial resources needed for these projects. Nonetheless, we will be hopeful moving forward.

Empowering Local Entrepreneurs

“The Entrepreneurship Expo” is a design project I’ve worked on that’s intent was to provide community support and exposure for local current and aspiring entrepreneurs. The organizers believed that the lack of these two assets were hindering small businesses from fully thriving. This led to the birth of this project.

Of the Design Justice principles, the most present in the project would be:

1. We use design to sustain, heal, and empower our communities, as well as to seek liberation from exploitative and oppressive systems.

  • The purpose of this project was to empower those within our community. We wanted to provide entrepreneurs with a platform to engage, inform, and share stories/support with one another.

3. We prioritize design’s impact on the community over the intentions of the designer.

  • It was clearly understood and communicated by all organizers that this project was not about us, ourselves, but about the impact on the community and those we sought to influence. The community was always first throughout the design process.

In addition, the principles that could have been more engaged include:

2. We center the voices of those who are directly impacted by the outcomes of the design process.

  • After many discussions of participatory design in this course, I’ve realized that the people most impacted by this project weren’t necessarily present throughout the entire design process. We planned and organized with a limited number of stakeholders, which caused voices to be unheard. Having consistent discussions and involvement from all stakeholders would have led to a more impactful outcome.

10. Before seeking new design solutions, we look for what is already working at the community level. We honor and uplift traditional, indigenous, and local knowledge and practices.

  • Our first step should have been to examine and discuss what is already working in the community. Instead, we went directly toward what needed to be fixed in regards to this project. I believe this stemmed from the goal of shifting away from what has been traditionally done, to introduce something new. However, taking time to look for what is already working would have been a beautiful thing to celebrate and honor. It would also be great in showing that things may not be as bad as they seem.

*waves* Hi, I’m Britney!

Britney's Design Journey


Hi, everyone!

My name is Britney. I’m a first year, master’s student in the Viral Communications group at the Media Lab.

I was born and raised in Surry, Virginia (a small, but special, town about 1.5 hours southeast of Richmond). Prior to joining the Media Lab, I obtained my master’s degree in computer science (specializing in social computing) from Georgia Tech. My bachelor’s degree is also in computer science (with a minor in leadership studies), which I earned from Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia. I am a lover of all things inspirational that promotes optimism, uplift, unity, and love. A few of my hobbies include playing basketball, spending time with family/friends, public speaking, and volunteering.

The project I plan to work on focuses on diversity and inclusion within technology from a cultural perspective. The journey I hope to take is to explore how culture, primarily black culture, and technology can be intertwined to make the field more inclusive. Instead of people of color primarily consuming technology, they’ll be producers of technology that they can see themselves within. My dream is to have more technology created that embodies what it means to celebrate and exhibit how great black culture is. My potential community partner, who I had the pleasure to connect with in the fall, is The Knowledge House – a non-profit organization aimed at developing a pipeline of tech talent from low-income communities.

Illustrated in the image above – I believe this design process will be filled with moments when an idea seems like it’ll be great, but we may have to come to a halt and do more brainstorming. We may also have times when we need to pause, or slow down, and think of other possible avenues to take. Addressing diversity and inclusion in technology is no easy task and will take lots of effort. However, no matter how many loops and circles we experience, we will get closer and closer to our goal if we just remember the reasons why we started.  Some learning goals I hope to gain from this course include:

  • communicating clearly and effectively the importance of representation + seeing one’s self within the technical field;
  • gaining deeper insight into barriers that may have been overlooked while addressing inclusion within technology;
  • and developing ideas on what avenue we should take in order to start moving toward the type of inclusion described briefly in the previous paragraph.

I am excited and truly looking forward to getting to know each of you, as well as your projects, throughout the semester!

– Britney