Transformational Experiences • Girls Innovate

Girls Innovate

Debuting in Richmond, VA · October 9, 2015



The underrepresentation of women in STEM careers frequently appears in the headlines. The national debate on how to best solve this problem continues with great intensity. As one of the largest all-girls schools in the nation, St. Catherine’s is uniquely positioned to establish Girls Innovate, a prototype program for other schools and organizations around the country to inspire girls and women to embrace STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) careers.

By participating in a day devoted to innovation and coding, girls in the Richmond community will partner with St. Catherine’s students to discover the endless possibilities that the STEM world provides. Girls Innovate serves these students at a pivotal time in their lives when they are most susceptible to losing interest in these areas. Through this innovative and interactive program, girls in grades 5-12 will connect, code and create a path to a bright future for themselves and others.


Girls Innovate is being held in conjunction with the United Nation’s International Day of the Girl and to celebrate the School’s 125th anniversary. This unique program is a high-energy, girl-centered event that includes dynamic women who are doing extraordinary work by combining their passions with technology. St. Catherine’s students will partner with girls from the underserved Richmond schools to engage in team building exercises, hands-on activities and innovation time facilitated by female mentors and makers. Opportunities to collaborate and communicate, the proven ways girls learn best, will be present throughout the day.

Girls Innovate

“When women’s voices are missing from design and decision-making tables, our nation suffers. Women need to be represented in STEM fields in order to share their perspectives and creativity in every sector of our society.”

Dr. Terrie Hale Scheckelhoff, St. Catherine’s Head of School


Click to learn more about each Girls Innovate Speaker

Danielle Feinberg, Director of Photography – Lighting, Pixar Animation Studios

Danielle Feinberg

Danielle Feinberg began her career at Pixar Animation Studios in February 1997, and in the 18 years since then, she has worked on nine of Pixar’s 14 feature films – “A Bug’s Life”, “Toy Story 2,” “Monsters, Inc.” and the Academy Award®-winning “Finding Nemo,” “The Incredibles,” “Cars,” and “Ratatouille.” Feinberg was the director of photography-lighting for the Academy Award®- winning features “WALL•E” and “Brave.” She is currently working on an upcoming project.

At the age of 23, Feinberg was promoted to be the lead render technical director on “A Bug’s Life,” in which she was in charge of a team of nine men, eight of whom were older than she. She quickly discovered her love for lighting because of the unique combination of technology and art.

Feinberg went on to work as a lighting artist on many of Pixar’s feature films, where she quickly moved up in the ranks – from master lighting artist on “Toy Story 2,” and “Monsters, Inc.” to lead lighting artist on the “The Incredibles.” On “Finding Nemo,” Feinberg took on the role of ocean unit CG supervisor, where she was responsible for the  teams creating the scenes in the depths of the ocean, the field of pink jellyfish and the rollercoaster ride with the turtles. Feinberg was once again in a lead creative role as director of photography-lighting for “Brave,” which stars Pixar’s first female protagonist.

A native of Boulder, Colorado, Feinberg’s love of combining computers and art began when she was eight years old, and first programmed a Logo turtle to create images. This eventually led her to a Bachelor of Arts in Computer Science from Harvard University. Now, in addition to her Pixar work, she enjoys photographing the real world with its ornery, non-virtual light, and works with teenage girls, encouraging them to pursue math and science by demonstrating to them the same beautiful simplicity she found with the programmed art of the Logo turtle.

Courtney Page Ferrell ’92, Creative Consultant

Courtney Ferrell

Even Oprah recognized Courtney Ferrell as an inspired change agent in the world of imagination, creativity and innovation in business. Courtney has built a successful career provoking organizations and individuals to think and behave differently. She has worked as a creative consultant and thinking partner to the top executives of companies such as Mattel, Disney, Colgate-Palmolive, NBC, Nike, The Discovery Channel, General Electric, Mary Kay and McGraw Hill. Her witty sense of humor, her drink-from-a-fire-hose energy, and her anything goes change methods have garnered her feature articles in Fast Company, O Magazine, INC magazine, Triathlete Magazine and Style. She’s been a visiting professor of Innovation at The Darden School of Business at The University of Virginia, The University of Richmond E Claiborne Robins School of Business, The Lyle School of Engineering and Design at Southern Methodist University and The Kaos Pilots University in Aarhus, Denmark.

Courtney can be found standing at the busy intersection of ideas, energy and people. Her latest idea, Girl Up, empowers young woman to take full advantage of their gifts, their independence, and their possibilities in order to create an extraordinary life for themselves. In the past decade, she has worked with thousands of young women as a speaker, teacher, coach, dorm mother and mentor. Her mission is to provide girls with actions and language that will help them put common (and uncommon) sense into practice and become the most sought after person around without compromising who they are.

Courtney spent seven years living on a high school dorm with her husband, their children and 45 freshman boys. In her free time, she coaches cross country, dreams up social experiments (check out her latest at, and writes children’s books. A storyteller at heart, Ferrell is never far from her pen or an audience. A 1992 graduate of St. Catherine’s School, Courtney returns to campus ready to inspire the next generation of girls.

Megan Grassell, Founder and CEO of Yellowberry

Megan Grassell

It all started with a trip to the mall, a few terrible bras and one bright idea.

Armed with her own hand-drawn sketch and the savings from her summer jobs, Megan Grassell set out to make her younger sister, along with tween girls everywhere, an age-appropriate bra. In 2013, at age 17, she founded Yellowberry. With funding from a successful Kickstarter campaign, Megan created colorful, comfortable and supportive bras for young girls along with a promise to help them feel more confident about wearing bras for the first time.

Today, Yellowberry offers bras, underwear and athletic-inspired apparel exclusively for girls with an extra boost of encouragement to dream big and feel supported to do anything in the world.

In 2014, Megan was selected as one of TIME Magazine’s 25 Most Influential Teens and included on Huffington Post’s list of 14 Most Fearless Teens. In 2015, Megan was named one of the 24 Millennials to Watch by Yahoo. She has been featured in countless media outlets including The TODAY Show, The New York Times, Fast Company, Inc. Magazine, Forbes Magazine, Seventeen and Teen Vogue, among others. In addition to serving as an active company founder, Megan serves as a member of the first-ever Barbie global advisory board and is a freshman at Middlebury College.

Rosalyn Hobson Hargraves ,Virginia Commonwealth University

Rosalyn_HargravesDr. Rosalyn Hobson Hargraves is an engineer, educator and researcher. She holds a joint appointment in the Schools of Education and Engineering as Co-Chair and Associate Professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning and Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. After joining Virginia Commonwealth University in 1996, she served as the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies in the School of Engineering (2007-2012), Director of the Virginia Commonwealth University – University of KwaZulu Natal International Partnership (2007-2011) and as an American Association for the Advancement of Science Diplomacy Fellow at the U.S. Agency for International Development (2003-2004). She received her B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in Electrical Engineering from the University of Virginia.

Her research interests are in STEM-H education, biomedical signal and image processing, machine learning, and international development STEM activities. Dr. Hargraves has received several million dollars in research funding, published over fifty conference and journal articles and presented lectures and keynote speeches around the world. She is the recipient of numerous awards including the 2008 Dominion Strong Men & Women Excellence in Leadership Award, Richmond Joint Engineers Council 2006 Engineer of the Year, and the National Society of Black Engineers National 2001 Janice A. Lumpkin Educator of the Year Award.

iLuminate Performers, featuring technology by Miral Kotb

Miral_Kotb_medium (3)In 2009, entrepreneur, dancer, choreographer, and software engineer Miral Kotb combined her passion for dance and computers to create iLuminate, the entertainment technology company that combines state-of-the-art technology with exhilarating dancers who perform in the dark to create the ultimate audience experience.

Miral received her degree in Computer Science from Columbia University while studying dance at Barnard College. Upon graduating, she secured a position with Bloomberg L.P. as a senior software engineer and then entered the world of mobile application development. Her work as a dancer and choreographer has been presented at numerous venues worldwide.

The concept for iLuminate emerged while Miral was developing iPhone applications. She had a vision of dancers wearing costumes that illuminated wirelessly to compliment the music and choreography — wireless technology that could be controlled from the palm of one’s hand. She pursued her idea with help from some of the best hardware and software engineers in the business. Developing iLuminate was the perfect way for Miral to combine her uniquely different worlds and follow her true passion.

iLuminate took audiences by storm when America voted the dance-in-the-dark sensation to one of the top finalist positions on the hit television show, “America’s Got Talent.” Since then, Miral and her unprecedented technology, programming, choreographing, and overall artistic direction has catapulted iLuminate into an international phenomenon that mesmerizes audiences across the globe. The enormously successful Off-Broadway production, illuminate, celebrated its one-year anniversary at New World Stages on July 18, 2014.

Miral has programmed iLuminate’s patent-pending technology for such Grammy-winning superstars as Chris Brown, Christina Aguilera and the Black Eyed Peas. The technology has also been featured on such shows as Dancing With the Stars, the American Music Awards, MTV’s Video Music Awards, and the BET Awards, among others. In addition, Miral has choreographed (and often times performs alongside her dancers) for several notable venues, such as Disneyland; the Nickelodeon Awards; at auto shows in Canada, South Africa, and Las Vegas; and at numerous corporate events across the country for such clients as IBM, Red Bull, Samsung, MINI Cooper, Energizer, and Starwood Hotels. In January 2013, illuminate danced in Washington, DC at the Kids’ Inaugural Concert for the First Lady and military families, sharing the stage with Katy Perry, Usher, Far East Movement, and the cast of “Glee,” among others.

In just a few short years, the rising entrepreneur has become a highly sought after speaker. Miral has been personally requested by Google CEO Larry Page to speak (alongside Sr. Richard Branson and other renowned speakers) at Google Zeitgeist where iLuminate has also performed. She also recently appeared at Google’s highly prestigious Made With Code launch event along with Chelsea Clinton, Mindy Kaling and Iconic Pop. Miral was also honored to be selected by NASDAQ to ring the opening bell this past July.

iLuminate Performers


Jessica Brundidge


Asha Nathan


Nicole Nichols


Lisa Bauford

Reshma Saujani, Founder and CEO of Girls Who Code

Reshma SaujaniReshma Saujani is the Founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, a national non-profit organization working to close the gender gap in technology and prepare young women for jobs of the future.

In her groundbreaking new book, “Women Who Don’t Wait in Line,” Reshma advocates for a new model of female leadership focused on embracing risk and failure, promoting mentorship and sponsorship, and boldly charting your own course — personally and professionally.

After years of working as an attorney, and supporting the Democratic party as an activist and fundraiser, Reshma left her private sector career behind and surged onto the political scene as the first Indian American woman in the country to run for US Congress.

Following the highly publicized race, Reshma stayed true to her passion for public service becoming Deputy Public Advocate of New York City and most recently running a spirited campaign for Public Advocate on a platform of creating educational and economic opportunities for women and girls, immigrants, and those who have been sidelined in the political process.

A true political entrepreneur, Reshma has been fearless in her efforts to disrupt both politics and technology to create positive change.

Reshma is a graduate of the University of Illinois, Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and Yale Law School. She was recently named a WSJ Magazine Innovator of the Year, one of the 50 Most Powerful Women in New York by the New York Daily News, Crain’s 40 under 40, CNBC’s Next List, Forbes’ Most Powerful Women Changing the World, Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People, Ad Age’s Creativity 50, Ad Age’s 40 under 40, Business Insider’s 50 Women Who Are Changing the World, City & State’s Rising Stars, and an AOL/PBS Next MAKER.

Shiza Shahid, Cofounder and Global Ambassador of the Malala Fund

Shiza Shahid

Shiza Shahid is an entrepreneur and social activist of Pakistani origin. She is the Co-Founder and Global Ambassador of the Malala Fund, the organization representing the young Pakistani activist who was shot by the Taliban for her campaign for girls’ education. A graduate of Stanford University, Shiza was previously a business analyst at McKinsey & Company in the Middle East. Shiza was recently named one of TIME magazine’s “30 Under 30 World Changers” and to Forbes “30 Under 30″ list of social entrepreneurs.

Around the world, over 600 million adolescent girls are denied a formal education because of social, economic, legal and political factors. And in being denied an education, society loses one of its greatest and most powerful resources. The Malala Fund aims to change that. Education empowers girls to raise their voices, to unlock their potential, and to demand change. The Malala Fund’s solutions are grounded in inspired innovation: they are girl-centric approaches to education that support the Fund’s goal of creating a world where every girl reaches her true potential.

Shiza currently lives in New York City.

Ayah Bdeir, Founder and CEO of littleBits (Video message)

AYAHBDEIRAyah Bdeir is the founder and CEO of littleBits, an award-winning platform of easy-to-use electronic building blocks that is empowering everyone to create inventions, large and small. Bdeir is an engineer, interactive artist and one of the leaders of the open source hardware movement. Bdeir’s career and education have centered on advancing open source hardware to make education and innovation more accessible to people around the world. She is a co-founder of the Open Hardware Summit, a TED Senior Fellow and an alumna of the MIT Media Lab. Bdeir was named one of Inc. Magazine’s 35 Under 35, one of NY Business Journal’s Women of Influence, one of Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business, one of Popular Mechanics’ 25 Makers Who Are Reinventing the American Dream, one of Entrepreneur’s 10 Leaders to Watch, one of the CNBC Next List, and one of MIT Technology Review’s 35 Innovators Under 35. Originally from Lebanon and Canada, Ayah now lives in New York City.

littleBits is the New York-­based hardware startup that is on a mission to democratize hardware by empowering everyone to c​reate inventions,​ large and small, with a platform of easy ­to ­use electronic building blocks.​ The company’s innovative building blocks snap together with magnets to allow anyone to build, invent, and prototype with electronics independent of age, gender and technical background – no soldering, wiring, or programming required. littleBits breaks down powerful technology – from music with the littleBits Synth Kit, to space exploration with the littleBits Space Kit, and the Internet of Things with the Smart Home Kit – and makes the technology accessible and easy to understand. T​he littleBits platform includes more than seven kits and 67 interoperable modules with millions of products sold in over 100 countries around the world. To learn more, visit
Learn more about Ayah and littleBits by watching Welcome to littleBits and Ayah’s TED talk.

Innovation Time

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What is Innovation Time?

Following the speaker event, our guest students from community partner schools will join our Middle School girls for a hands-on workshop. The girls will be divided into small teams, supported by Innovation Time mentors from littleBits, Capital One and WestRock and St. Catherine’s teachers. Together they will explore engineering and technology and collaborate on a design challenge. Each team will use littleBits’ adaptable modules including motors, lights, sensors, buttons, and switches to explore circuits. Girls will be empowered to build sophisticated and complex circuits as they work through a design challenge together. Participants will demonstrate their inventions and showcase their work with younger students. Mentors from Capital One, CapTech and WestRock will provide guidance during Innovation Time.

Erin Mulcahy, littleBits

ErinErin Mulcahy manages strategic initiatives for the littleBits Education Team. Over the past three years, Erin has helped to develop and execute the company’s education business & marketing strategy and expand formal and informal learning programs around the world. She has also created and led demos and workshops for makers of all ages at several events, including ISTE, FETC, SXSW, WIRED UK, MakerFaire NY & Bay Area and SolidCon.

Prior to littleBits, Erin received an MA from Columbia University and a BS from Cornell University, with a focus on animal behavior and environmental conservation. She has also held positions at the Earth Institute and The National Research Council of The National Academies.

Allison Vannatta, littleBits


Allison works on the littleBits Education Team as a development executive supporting educators’ implementation of littleBits into their programs. Part of what she enjoys most is helping educators of all disciplines creatively and effectively use littleBits in an engaging and hands-on environment. Allison also works with Public Libraries, Makerspaces and Hackerspaces around the world, helping to develop programs and workshops using littleBits.

Prior to littleBits, Allison completed both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Elementary Education at James Madison University, with a concentration in math, science and technology. During her coursework, she worked extensively with elementary age children K-5.

Julie Gannon, Director, WestRock Company

JulieGannon_WestrockJulie Gannon has been in the paper and packaging industry for 20 years.  At WestRock, she manages Analytical Services and Pilot Operations, which includes all the laboratories that support the corporation and the pilot plant facility which is instrumental in scaling up of ideas and innovations prior to launching in the marketplace. Since variety is the spice of life, she has held positions within manufacturing operations, product development, energy risk management, strategic sourcing, and innovation project management.  She has a BS from the University of Maine in Chemical Engineering and has enjoyed numerous opportunities to spread her love of STEM to young girls, especially her own.

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