It’s in the best interests of Chicago-area electric utility Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) to encourage young women to explore career opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). But more important, it’s in the best interests of young women to explore those opportunities: Women in STEM occupations earn on average 33% more than those in non-STEM jobs, and the market sector has a smaller gender-based wage gap than the employment market overall. But many young women aren’t exposed to hands-on STEM education. ComEd sought to provide them with that opportunity with its Icebox Derby.
Created with agencyEA, the six-week program challenged six teams of Chicago girls ages 13 to 18 to build electric racecars out of recycled refrigerators. Mentors from ComEd and its community partners as well as experts in relevant fields offered support and served as coaches. The teams were provided with branded workstations, building guides, prototypes, and other essentials. The six cars then raced near Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History. All participants won $1,000 scholarships, while members of the winning team also won scholarships to Space Camp, where they could enjoy even more hands-on learning.
Throughout the campaign, the Icebox Derby website posted information about the progress of each team. To encourage social media sharing, teams received “bonuses” such as racing gloves and decals if enough of their supporters posted on Twitter, Facebook, or other social media using #EMPOWER and the team’s individual hashtag.
The promotion generated local and national media coverage as well as social conversation, and more than 300 people attended the race to cheer on their favorites. ComEd was so pleased with the campaign that it plans to repeat it in 2015.