A flock of students took to Dejope Hall on the UW campus on last weekend to explore the wonders of technology at an event titled Circuits, Cards and Code, in conjunction with the National Hour of Code movement.

Students ranging from first to fifth grade cluttered the Mendota Room, focused on creating LED light up cards, just in time for the holidays. Students learned the differences between positive and negative circuits, while using their hands to make creative holiday cards.

The event was hosted by Maydm, a technology non-profit geared towards introducing girls and youth of color to technology and programming through project-based learning to balance the disparities within science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. At Circuits, Cards and Code students were encouraged to learn the fundamentals of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) learning alongside their parents through a relatable project that they could take home and flaunt to their families.

“The main goal of that was to bring parents into the mix of STEM learning and getting them engaged and excited, really addressing different gatekeepers that keep STEM away from folks and start to see, ‘Oh yeah, there are some challenges with STEM–its hard–but we can actually do this together and figure it out,’” Maydm Executive Director Winnie Karanja said. “Actually bringing parents into that mix is so important for me.”

Each year Maydm hosts a community-oriented event to introduce and inspire students, their parents and community to engage in computer science and technology. This year’s event offered two sections. The first section, held that morning, focused on 1st through 2nd graders, who created LED light up cards and participated in a scratch adventure game. In the afternoon, 3rd through 5th graders participated in making a more challenging version of the light up holiday card.

Jenean Bart, who attended the afternoon session with her two children — both aspiring inventors that enjoy geology and chemistry — found the event to be a good Saturday activity to introduce her young inventors to new topics in STEM.

“We like science in the house and so we spend a lot of time exposing them to opportunities to find that science and engineering is fun and interesting,” Bart said.

Karanja hopes to see events like this, combined with classes and summer camps offered by Maydm, close the gap in STEM fields that often don’t see much diversity.

“I want to make it a culture, a certain culture of innovation in STEM learning and engagement at an early age. We want them to just get excited, get inspired about STEM and continue the learning,” Karanja said. “What makes Maydm unique is we don’t learn concepts siloed from the world that we live in so when we’re doing activities, when we’re building, when we’re programming robots or talking about machine learning we’re thinking back to ‘How do we use these skills for our communities?’”