River Grove, Ill. - Filmmaker Risé Sanders Weir came across an article in the New York Times in 2011 detailing "GADgET" (Girls Adventuring in Design, Engineering and Technology), a unique summer program at Triton College designed to introduce middle-school-aged girls to the typically male-dominated fields of manufacturing and engineering.
As she read about young ladies working together to craft a lamp with the use of a drill press and soldering iron, a light bulb of her own went on.
"I did the modern day equivalent of tearing it out of the newspaper and putting it in a folder," Sanders Weir recalled of how the concept for the documentary Gadget Girls was born.
The film, which follows the GADgET class of 2012, makes its television premiere on WTTW Chicago at 5:30 p.m., on Sunday, Oct. 22.
The documentary explores modern gender roles and the social pressures girls encounter when expressing an interest in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
"The camp is for sixth, seventh and eighth grade girls, and the awareness of the social pressures that happen in rooms full of boys was much more apparent with the eighth graders than it was with the sixth graders," Sanders Weir said.
The GADgET program, which completed its seventh year in 2017, is funded in part by a grant from the Nuts, Bolts & Thingamajigs Foundation of the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association. Throughout the program, participants create a foundation of entrepreneurship skills, discover the academic requirements for 21st century manufacturing careers, and develop teamwork and other crucial skills. The girls conceptualize, design and manufacture products using a variety of tools, as well as visit local manufacturing facilities and participate in discussions with women currently succeeding in the industry.
In addition to the airing of the documentary on WTTW, Sanders Weir, along with GADgET creator and Triton College faculty member Antigone Sharris as well as GADgET program alum Sarah Sirhan will participate in a discussion at the Chicago Cultural Center (78 E. Washington St., Chicago) at 2 p.m., on Saturday, Oct. 21. The event is sponsored by WTTW in partnership with the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. A screening of the film will proceed the panel discussion. The event is free to attend, but RSVP's are appreciated and can be made at wttw.com/events.
Sanders Weir is an Oak Park resident with extensive experience in television and film production. She has also served as an adjunct faculty member at Triton College since 2012, teaching classes in film history and appreciation. Gadget Girls is her first independent documentary, produced with the assistance of several Triton College students. Her next project is a documentary miniseries focusing on racial inequality in academic achievement filmed at a local high school. It is scheduled to be completed in 2018.
For more information on GADgET, contact Antigone Sharris at email@example.com or (773) 580-8807.