Teen-Ovation: How a Group of Girls Invented Smart Tents to Shelter the Homeless

Invention Solar Tents
Photo Credit IG @pipelinesmobile / @mashable

Imagine seeing something so impactful that you decided to do something about it. Well, that’s exactly what Daniela Orozco and 11 more girls did. These girls, who all attend San Fernando High School, set their minds to create solar-powered tents, or smart tents, in order to help the homeless. They hoped that their invention would improve the lives of homeless people in their community. 

Photo courtesy of Scott Witter/Redux Belatina, Latinx
Photo courtesy of Scott Witter/Redux

Their vision became a reality when DIY Girls offered to guide them. DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Girls is a nonprofit program founded in 2012 that helps girls in under-resourced communities. DIY Girls encourage the curiosities of the girls, especially in anything relating to science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics, or STEAM) to blossom while providing them with the foundation they need to excel. They make sure to promote engagement, skill-building, and other components to keep these girls on track. DIY offers after-school and summer programs to allow their participants join a path of success. These programs are currently being held in the Northeast San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles. So, without a doubt, their smart tent project fit right in with DIY Girls. 

It was actually the former executive and program director for DIY Girls, Evelyn Gomez, who knew she had to pitch into the vision of these girls from San Fernando High School. Gomez, who now serves as a board member for DIY Girls, understood what it was like to dream big in a world or a community where so many factors are usually against girls. She had felt what it was like to be the only latina in many instances who had ideas of equal or of greater importance to her peers. 

“I think it really places a big burden on your shoulders: I’m not just representing myself, I’m representing my people, I’m representing my community, and if I say something that maybe … doesn’t make sense, then that’s going to reflect poorly on them. That’s the beauty of having an all-girls team and having the beauty of working within our own community: We have no one else to turn to for answers. We need to come up with the answers ourselves. It’s very empowering,” Gomez told WBUR.  

She herself attended and graduated from San Fernando High School, so this felt close to her. Seeing that a group of girls wanted to make a change in their community was everything to her. This prompted Evelyn Gomez to go seek help from her former AP Calculus teacher for their high school and asked him to help him gather up a team. Once the team was established, they all started to get to work. 

The girls used Evelyn Gomez’s guidance to the max in the beginning, but they started detaching themselves slowly as the project progressed. This wasn’t done in bad faith. The girls did this because they wanted to get things done on their own and actually learn how to do it. 

Whenever they hit a roadblock, they didn’t panic. Instead, they did everything possible to figure it out on their own. That meant watching countless Youtube videos and Googling other things that they hadn’t learned up until that point, like sewing and coding. They even started an inspirational hashtag to showcase their efforts: #wegetitdone.

“You’re learning new things you’ve never even heard of or even thought of,” says Chelly Chavez to Mashable, who learned the programming language C++ to get the technical aspects of the tent to behave. 

invention diygirls_inventeams
Photo Credit IG @diygirls_inventeams

But what’s more inspiring is their motivation to invent these solar-powered tents in the first place. 

As I had mentioned earlier, the smart tents is an invention that has been carried out by Daniela Orozco and 11 other girls. Well, the reason Daniela Orozco is singled out is because she was the one that motivated her friends to get on board. Her motivation really derived from a sad reality Orozco and her friends had personally seen transpire. 

At the beginning of her high school experience, as a freshman, she recalls only seeing one homeless person on her way to school. However, that number quickly increased as she continued walking to school throughout the years. Without even realizing it, she had been exposed to the rapid rise of the homelessness issue that is becoming painfully prevalent all over the United States, including in Los Angeles. They felt that they had to help in some way. 

“Because we come from low-income families ourselves, we can’t give them money,” the high school senior told Mashable. 

“We wanted to offer something besides money,” her classmate, Veronica Gonzalez, chimes in.

The reality is that low-income families are constantly flirting with the fact that homelessness is right around the corner if they’re not careful enough. Sadly, 78 percent of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. That means that one out of three Americans are one paycheck away from homelessness. It is important to note that it’s not always the drug addicts or the mentally disabled who are the ones that end up on the streets. The harsh truth is that 25 percent of Americans are actually employed, yet are still homeless. Crazy, right? When you come to terms with how scary this is, you start to understand why helping homeless people is not a waste, but it has become vital for our society. At least it is for my humanitarian soul, which is why I fully support what these young ladies have done. 

There are a lot of factors that make up homelessness, but we can’t deny that a big chunk of it is due to the racial disparity. Unfortunately, most minorities in the United States experience homelessness more than White/Caucasian, which means that there’s disportionate information on homelessness based on just this fact. To highlight how bad this is, let’s take the statistic of homeless Hispanics. See, Hispanics make up 18 percent of the population in the United States, but it makes up 21 percent of homelessness in the United States. This is regretful to acknowledge, but it’s the truth.

All of this information must have greatly impacted this group of girls because they pushed through to make it happen. They continued on even though they realized that they could use their knowledge to invent something else for other global issues, but they all firmly decided that they wanted to do something for their community. 

After putting so much effort into their solar-powered tents, they received a $10,000 grant from the Lemelson-MIT Program. Here you have a group of teenage girls who have never coded, sewed, or even carried out a project of such stature getting their opportunity to develop their invention as it should. This is the dream. 

IG @diygirls_inventeam
Photo Credit @diygirls_inventeam

Their persistence to invent this and get it noticed was also grand. This group of girls managed to raise an additional $15,000 to be able to travel to Cambridge, Massachusetts to be able to present their invention. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have been able to go since the grant specified that the funds were to only be used on the invention itself and their parents wouldn’t have been able to foot the bill for the trip, either. Thankfully, these girls are not willing to go down so easily and I’m here for it. 

The force these girls created did not only get noticed by MIT and DIY Girls. They’ve gotten plenty recognition nationwide, including by our former presidential runner-up, Hilary Clinton. How awesome is that? They are getting themselves out there and all for a good cause. That’s what it’s all about it. 

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Photo Credit IG @diygirls_inventeam

Ultimately, these teenage inventors ended up creating a solar-powered tent that can be folded into a rollaway backpack. Aside from that, the tent has button-powered lights, two USB ports, and a micro-USB port. The girls have even tested a sanitizing UVC light on a countdown timer. 

All of this because a group of girls wanted to help those in need. 

“Our main goal is to get it patented. But we wanted to make sure that it gets in the right hands and it’s properly distributed to the homeless,” Daniela Orozco told WBUR. 

I don’t know if you’ve felt it, but this is really inspirational. It goes to show you: QUE SI SE PUEDE! 

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