Technolochicas at Luminarias

Technolochicas at the Luminarias
Technolochicas at their display

The Luminaria Night is a popular annual weekend event held at the Tubac Village during the holiday season. Festivities have always included lighting, treats, shopping, Santa, music, family fun, and this year CTMS Technolochicas. Participating students from three schools (CTMS, Desert Shadows MS and Lourdes Catholic) worked with CTMS teacher, Ruchi Chabbra, and co-teacher, Ajay Pacharne, to prepare their unique display presenting the Science of Lighting (or the technology behind Christmas lights) for two evenings, December 6-7. 

Volunteer student participants included Kadence Toothman (7th grade), Grecia Corella (7th grade), Camila Fonseca (8th grade), Kansas Victoria (7th grade), and Anna Allen (6th grade). They set up interactive stations to demonstrate Arduino experiments with Snap Circuits kits for young children. The kits consisted of electrical components circuits snapped together to power lights, sounds, and simple electrical gadgets. The girls loved showcasing their knowledge and technology skills. It was an affirmation of the value of what they are learning. Most of all, they enjoyed being "teachers".

Chabbra’s inspiration to spearhead such an event was twofold. First, a desire to showcase to the wider community the program and students she supervises on a weekly basis. Second, to promote the broad Technolochicas goal of encouraging more women (especially Latinas) in technology related careers. Three years ago, both Coatimundi and Calabasas Middle Schools (and six other county schools) were invited to start the "Technolochicas" program by Santa Cruz County School Superintendent Mr. Alfredo I Velasquez, supported and funded by the Santa Cruz County office. The education and exploration begins at middle school (and sometimes even earlier) between the ages of eleven and thirteen.

Chabbra credits Mr. Christopher Young, Chief Deputy of the Santa Cruz County School Superintendent’s Office, for securing sponsors (South 32 this year) for the program. “(Technolochicas) has been a tremendous success, and has become bigger and better.” The Tubac Luminaria seemed perfect for raising public awareness in the larger community and Mr. Young was able to secure a spot at the Tubac Center of the Arts.

Located next to the Santa Meet and Greet area, a lot of families and young children stopped by to enjoy the exhibit. “It was the perfect place to be,” said Chabbra. Girls and boys as young as four and five got to snap electrical circuits together and feel the magic of science technology along with the magic of Christmas at their interactive station. 

For the student volunteers it was a fantastic opportunity for public speaking and explaining what they do to children and adults. In the festival, Kadence Toothman and Kansas Victoria were responsible for teaching kids about the full loop of circuits. “My favorite part of the luminaria night,” said Kadence, “was watching and teaching the kids. I love the way their eyes lit up when the light bulb did.” Camila Fonseca and Anna Allen were also responsible to teach circuitry and answer questions for interested viewers. “I loved it,” said Camila. “I had the ability to show the little kids that you can change what (the circuit) said, kinda like a phone.” Anna said, “I was nervous at the beginning,” then added, “but when I got started showing off how smart I am I had fun. I gave a powerful speech.” 

Chabbra observed, “Their conversations with four year olds were intense.” The young Technolochicas agreed unanimously that they would definitely do the same presentation again, and that opportunity is coming up just around the corner at the district’s Family Science (STEAM) Night February 26th. Technolochicas Luminarias was fun and empowering for each girl to seek out more opportunities to grow with technology.