Applications are now closed

The Young Women’s Design and Building Institute is an immersive week-long design/build experience for rising 9th-12th grade girls* and gender non-conforming youth. The program brings together diverse cohorts of young womxn to design and build a real-world project for a local nonprofit client over the course of just five days. Previous projects have included furniture for a local women’s shelter, sandboxes and wind sculptures for local preschools, and more. For our 2021 program, we will design and construct furniture and outdoor fixtures for a local organization that serves and houses homeless youth. Girls will learn and hone creative and vocational STEM skills, from carpentry and welding to applied math, screen printing, and architectural drafting. Our work will be complemented by discussions and readings related to identity, making, and community.

This program is led by our Executive Director, Emily Pilloton-Lam, along with highly skilled builders, educators, fabricators, and architects who provide personalized mentorship and guidance to every girl. No building experience is necessary; we welcome aspiring builder girls of all skill levels!  This program is by application only, at no cost to participants if accepted, and limited to a cohort of 12 girls. Priority will be given to girls with limited financial resources and/or limited access to similar programming in their schools or communities.

Each day will run from 9am-4pm and will include all materials, lunch and snacks, a T-shirt, and a reader of supporting texts. For out-of-town attendees, please note that we are unable to provide additional funding for travel or lodging.

*“Girls” refers to gender-expansive youth (cis girls, trans girls, non-binary youth, gender non-conforming youth, gender queer youth, and any girl-identified youth).

NOTE: Due to the modifications and cancellations we were forced to make in 2020 due to COVID-19, girls who were enrolled in our 2020 Young Women’s Design and Building Institute will be given a guaranteed spot in 2021, should they choose to return. This means that spots for newly applying participants are more limited than in the past. While this should not discourage you from applying, we hope this sets realistic expectations regarding our admissions numbers.


Weekly Activity Schedule (subject to change):

  • Monday
    Community-building, t-shirt screenprinting, site visit to community client, tool training and “bootcamp” building project
  • Tuesday 
    Design and drawing, material shopping, measuring, and cutting wood and metal
  • Wednesday
    Assembly of projects (including carpentry and welding)
  • Thursday
    Sand, paint, and finish community client projects, afternoon field trip to local fabrication facility
  • Friday
    Installation of projects for community client, final reflection circle and open maker time

Annual Application Schedule:

  • February 1
    Applications open online
  • March 1
    Applications due
  • March 15
    Notifications sent to all applicants
  • April 1
    Final registration forms and online waivers due