CS Talk #1

Tara Chklovski - Empowering Girls and Mothers Worldwide to Innovate Using AI


Iridescent is a global engineering and technology education nonprofit that supports low-income communities (especially girls and mothers) to solve problems in their community using engineering and technology tools.

Over the past 13 years, it has reached more than 120,000 underserved children and parents across 115 countries.

It implements two unique programs, both of which introduce underserved communities to cutting-edge technologies, and empower them to apply these technologies to solve real-world problems that they face.

The AI Family Challenge (AIFC) is a hands-on AI-education program for children (grades 3rd-8th) and their parents through which they learn about AI technologies and develop an AI-based product that solves problems around food, crime, transportation, education, agriculture, health, water/air quality, energy etc. The families are supported by mentors from industry who go through a rigorous training on how to ask open-ended questions, give feedback, motivate participants and be aware of unconscious bias (video of a mother and daughter going through the program).

Iridescent’s second program -- Technovation Challenge -- is the world's largest technology-entrepreneurship program for girls (grades 5th-12th) through which they work with trained mentors to identify a problem in their community and develop and launch a mobile app startup that solves that problem (CNN, Good Morning America).

For both programs, Iridescent uses a design-based research (DBR) approach to collect data on what is working and what is not, and continually iterate to achieve deeper impact at larger (national and global) scale and lower cost. This system of agile data collection, analysis and feedback into program operations has taken many years to establish at a global scale (6000+ community partners). This social infrastructure is a powerful substrate for testing out hypotheses regarding effective long-term impact, low cost strategies. For instance, one strategy that has emerged has been to engage parents and build their capacity as engineering/technology education facilitators. This enables the students to continue learning at home (beyond the program) as the parents are now empowered to explore new learning opportunities with them.

During the talk, Iridescent will share insights and practical lessons on engaging different audiences worldwide (especially girls and women) over multi-week engineering/technology learning experiences.

Bio of Tara Chklovski

Tara Chklovski is the Founder and CEO of Iridescent - a global engineering and technology education nonprofit. Iridescent supports low-income communities (especially girls and mothers) to solve problems in their community using engineering and technology tools. Over the past 13 years, Iridescent has since grown to a community of over 120,000 participants across 100+ countries through its flagship programs Curiosity Machine and Technovation. Forbes highlighted Tara in 2016 as “the pioneer empowering the incredible tech girls of the future” and she was prominently featured in the award-winning documentary Codegirl.  

Also in 2016, Tara was honored by Discovery’s Science Channel as the first inaugural CEO Science Super Star Hero for igniting passion for science and encouraging the next generation of innovators, problem solvers and game changers. A frequent speaker for her thought leadership in STEM education, she recently presented Iridescent’s work at the White House STEM Inclusion Summit and at the UN. Tara earned her BS in Physics from St. Stephen’s College and a MS in aerospace engineering from Boston University. Tara left her PhD program in aerospace engineering at USC to found Iridescent and directly empower girls and women worldwide.


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