The sounds of 3-D printers in various parts of the room filled the once-silent void and nearly a dozen people from LBCC, some students and some employees, milled about playing with Micro:bit controllers, Edison Robots, and 3-D printing pens. A table on the east side of the room held an old iMac that had its hard drive surgically removed by a tall young man in a baseball hat.
It was 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 19, in LBCC’s room T-229 – the MILL was open for “Women in Tech Night.” Everyone seemed to be smiling and talking, and most were learning something new. It felt more like the LBCC we knew in the Fall of 2019 than the empty halls we’ve grown accustomed to.
As the clock approached 6 p.m., the speakers for the night’s main event began to arrive. The crowd that had come to see them had doubled in size. Jennifer Kessel of Linn Benton Lincoln Education Service District was at the helm of the panel as the event’s moderator. Erin Hyde, a computer programmer also from LBL ESD was at the table as a speaker as well. Corey Cowles, tinkerer and production manager at Agility Robotics, and LBCC’s own computer science instructor Sisi Virasak also took their seats in the MILL’s Audio/Visual Lab.
At 6:15 the microphones were hot and cameras were recording as the audience shuffled into the room, greeted by the panelists. There was a collective discourse that although this was a women-centered event, it wasn’t a women-exclusive event. Panelists agree that women and gender minorities need men to join the conversation and help in taking action to break down the barriers to equity, inclusion, and representation in the tech industry.
The panel lasted for 45 minutes and at the end attendees, including a handful of students from West Albany High, raised their hands, eager to ask questions.
At the end of the panel, Kessel said, “Tonight turned out better than I had expected for the first go-around; we had great interaction with the crowd, and comfortable panelists that could give us their honest answers. That was the most important thing, that we were comfortable and safe and could talk about our topics.”
When asked if she’d recommend the event to students, Kessel said, “Definitely, you get to see women like you in roles that you want to be in, we aim to facilitate more mentorship.”
LBCC student Yuqi Knowles, who plans on going into the pharmaceutical industry, said, “I really enjoyed the panel discussion, hearing the women talk about their lives and careers made me feel really confident.”
By 7:45 the MILL had emptied, and the room was once again quiet except for the ceaseless drone of the H-Vac system.
“It was amazing.” Forrest Johnson, the MILL’s coordinator, glowing in the success of the makerspace’s first event said. “It was really lovely to have everyone here, so many amazing women in tech jobs, students, and people from LBCC. It was a great community event.”
If you’re reading this and upset you missed the event, you have another chance to join in the fun. The MILL is hosting a “Women in Science Night” on Mar. 16, in T-229. The time of the event has yet to be determined. At a Glance:
What: “Women in Tech Night” Open House
When: Thursday, Jan. 19
Where: Takena Hall, Room 229, LBCC Albany Campus, 6500 Pacific Blvd. SW
What’s Next: “Women in Science Night,” March 16
For More Information: Forrest Johnson at Mill@linnbenton.edu