Tech of the Week: the friendship bracelets teaching girls to code

Shows like ‘The Big Bang Theory’ have showcased strong female scientific-minds, but playing to stereotypes of personality oddities and terrible fashion don’t really booster the image of girls in STEM fields. One Kickstarter campaign however wants to teach girls to code – and look good doing it.

Remember friendship bracelets? I got one once from a girl that fancied me when I was 7. It was made of cotton string, had frilly bits, and broke after two weeks.

Recently the advancement of technology has hit this endearing trinket from yesteryear, and some people are keen to see it matched up with girls who want to learn to code.

Jewelbots are open-source programmable friendship bracelets for tween and teenage girls.  The company is currently on Kickstarter, and with ten days to go on their campaign, they’ve already achieved well over their goal of US$30,000 (NZ$45,247) by 429% – reaching a whopping US$128,750 (NZ$194,183.37).

Using basic engineering logic, girls can program the bracelets to do just about anything – from detecting when a friend is near to sending secret messages, weather updates to even flying a drone.

The project was created by three women – Sara Chipps, Brooke Moreland, and Maria Paula Saba – who are heavily involved in the fashion and technology industries. Jewelbots was born from the desire to see more girls get into what is a traditionally male-dominated industry.

The Jewelbots work straight out of the box, with a pair-able Bluetooth app that’s available on both iOS and Android. Using open-source Arduino technology, the bracelets can be programmed to respond to certain events with the only thing limiting its technical possibilities the “user’s imagination”.

Currently they’re still at the design phase, but the latest edition of the device is now smaller than a US quarter. The group is hoping to wrap up the phase 3 prototypes by August of this year, with beta testing set to begin in September.

While the early bird options are now all gone, potential backers can still pick the bracelets up for US$59 here.

The smart wearable is slated for delivery in March 2016, and will ship globally.