Applications now closed (notifications will be sent 3/15!)


The Young Women’s Design and Building Institute is an immersive week-long design/build experience for rising 9th-12th grade girls and gender-expansive youth. The program brings together diverse cohorts of youth to design and build a real-world project for a local nonprofit client over the course of just a few exciting days. Previous projects have included a parade float for SF Pride, furniture for a nearby homeless shelter, sandboxes and wind sculptures for local preschools, and more. Students 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 Emily Pilloton-Lam, Augusta Sitney, Allison Oropallo, HyeYoon Song, Maya Vilaplana, and Bethany Kaylor, who are highly skilled builders, educators, artists, and architects with a lifelong commitment to youth mentorship and guidance. No building experience is necessary; we welcome aspiring builders of all skill levels!  This program is by application only, at no cost to participants if accepted, and limited to a cohort of 16 students. Priority will be given to students who: a) live locally in the Bay Area, b) have limited financial resources and/or limited access to similar programming in their schools or communities, c) identify as youth of color and/or BIPOC.

Each day will run from 9am-4pm and will include all materials, safety gear, snacks, and a T-shirt (students must bring their own lunch). For out-of-town attendees, please note that we are unable to provide additional funding for travel or lodging.

Weekly Activity Schedule (subject to change):

  • Monday:
    Intro, welcome, safety training and community-building
  • 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 (half day)
    Installation of projects for community client, final reflection circle and open maker time

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

Program FAQ:

Q: How do I submit an application for the Young Women’s Design and Building Institute?

A: We will have a link to an online application on this webpage from February 1-March 1st at 5pm. All applications must be submitted online within the application window. We’ll notify all applicants by March 15th, and if accepted, final registration forms and waiver will be due by April 1st.

Q: Do you give preference to certain applicants? If so, what factors do you consider?

A: We spend many hours reviewing all applications thoroughly, and more than anything, consider the diversity of the entire cohort. It is our goal (and has been our experience) to bring together groups of students who have a broad and unique set of skill levels, identities, ages, abilities, and lived experiences. That said, when reviewing an individual application, we do give some preference to students who live locally in the Bay Area, particularly in zip codes and neighborhoods that lack comparable resources in their schools or communities, students who have economic barriers to attend other comparable programs, students of color, and students who submit an application that demonstrates an enthusiasm for the program content. We give equal weight to students who are brand new to Girls Garage, are returning students, or repeat applicants. We are committed to a thorough and individualized application review, so please know that we take this process very seriously and with great care.

Q: How hard is it to get in?

A: In general, we typically accept about 30-40% of applicants, depending on number of total applications. Last year we received 75 applications and admitted 32 total students. You might be wondering, “why can’t they just add another session or enroll more students?” These are totally valid questions. Please know, however, that we run three additional programs during the summer for other age groups of students, so our summer schedule is full. We also maintain a small-ish cohort of students (12 per week) for safety reasons and because we know from experience that this group size maximizes the quality of relationships between students and staff.

Q: Can I attend both cohorts?

A: No, you will be assigned to only one of the cohort weeks. That said, when you apply, if you are able to attend either session, schedule-wise, please select both. This will allow us to place you in either cohort based on other applicants’ availability also.

Q: My child is going into 8th grade but is very mature. Can she attend?

A: Unfortunately, no. We maintain a defined age group (rising high school students) in order to better serve a more specific range of social and emotional growth. This helps our teaching staff develop lesson plans that can be differentiated across a reasonable spectrum of learners, and also helps students support each other and connect through common experience. Students must be rising 9th-12th graders for the 2023-2024 academic year.

Q: What kind of information do I need for the application? Can I prepare my written responses ahead of time?

A: The application asks for basic information, including name, pronouns, date of birth, address and contact info for parent(s)/guardian(s), etc, as well as some optional demographic data. There is a student portion and a parent portion that must be completed. The student portion MUST be completed by the student, not by the parent on the student’s behalf. For student’s, below is a list of the required written response questions, if you’d like to prepare them ahead of time!

  • Tell us about yourself! How do you identify?
  • Why are you interested in the Young Women’s Design and Building Institute? What do you hope to get out of this experience?
  • What is your experience making and building? Do you see this work as part of your future learning or career path, and if so, how?
  • What issues in the world get you fired up, and why?
  • What other activities or organizations are you involved with outside of school?

Q: I live out of the area. Can I apply?

A: Yes, you may apply. However, please know that our primary service and priority is students who live in the Bay Area, and we do give preference to local attendees. Also, if you are accepted as an out-of-area student, we cannot provide additional financial assistance for travel or lodging.

Q: I have a question that wasn’t answered here. Who can I talk to?

A: Please email us at for any other questions!