What do we do
To increase girls’ interest in technology, robotics and science from an early age and thus increase the number of women working in ICT.
To reduce girls’ fear of technology and achieve a more equal distribution of boys and girls in technology-related hobby groups.
What is HK Unicorn Squad?
HK Unicorn Squad is a movement providing knowledge and skills in technology as hobby education only for girls. Our goal is to cultivate a true interest in engineering, robotics and natural sciences among girls aged 8-14 through practical and exciting assignments.
The first squad of HK Unicorn Squad was formed in September 2018 in Miiduranna, Viimsi on the initiative of entrepreneur and engineer Taavi Kotka. It consisted of 17 girls aged between 7-12. After the first successful course, in the spring of 2019, it was decided to continue with test groups all over Estonia, providing free educational kits consisting of teaching resources and instructions.
History behind our name “HK Unicorn Squad”. The reason and inspiration for the name was provided by Taavi’s daughter Helena who was 10 years old at the time. Helena wanted to be a member of a robotics group and in general, she loved technological stuff. However, under some confusing circumstances, the number of students in her robotics group was reduced one day, and Helena was excluded because “she wasn’t as active as the boys” (meaning: she was a girl). It irritated Helena’s father, who started looking for like-minded people in order to find a better solution together.
Thus, “HK” stands for the initials of Helena Kotka, and “Unicorn Squad” was added as Helena was wearing a dress with a unicorn’s picture at the time of choosing the name, and it simply felt very inspiring. In addition, unicorns are very special creatures, just like all the girls in our tech squads.
By the spring of 2023, more than 160 groups have started work, consisting of more than 2000 girls.
Why is this movement needed?
In Estonia, as well as in many other countries, women are poorly represented in the ICT area. According to Eurostat data, in Estonia, that is well known for its technological advancements, females form only ~22 % of all specialists in the ICT area.
The same pattern can be seen in kids’ tech related hobby groups, such as robotics, there is one (two, if you get lucky) girl among 10 boys in a group.
Estimately, girls are ~1.5 years behind boys in terms of their technical knowledge, so girls need more guidance and encouragement to pursue this field.
Through our activities, we would like to investigate why the percentage of boys in the technological fields is so much higher, and find ways to motivate girls’ interest in technological careers.
Why all-girls squads?
We believe that girls are definitely as curious as boys, but being in mixed groups they somehow exclude themselves in classes, so they don’t get the same positive experiences as boys. This, in turn, is reflected later in the labour market, where ICT, as one of the areas with higher wages, remains inaccessible to ‘ladies’.
Not everyone needs to become a developer. Today’s product and service development is a mixture of different disciplines. But the fact that the balance is so off, reveals that there’s something wrong already in basic education as well as in the mentality of people. Hackathons (sprint-like design events) or “Women in IT”-projects in later life won’t change the picture.
Our experience so far shows that when girls can discover technology only in groups of girls, they are much more open, experiment with pleasure and feel more comfortable. By taking away the fear of technology, we build their confidence, and the increased interest in technology will give them more equal opportunities in the labour market later.
How new squads are formed?
HK Unicorn Squad is not a traditional hobby group starting in September and ending in May, but consists of two 10-lesson courses throughout an academic year – in autumn and spring. Classes are held once a week lasting for 1.5-2 hours at a time, and each group sets its own day and time to come together.
The founder of a new group has to have the willingness to bring the girls together, be their instructor or find one, and find a location for the classes (e.g. a classroom in a school, a room in a hobby centre, etc).
We provide all the resources for the classes – materials and video tutorials – free of charge. The minimum number of girls in a group is 8. We don’t limit the maximum number, but 10-12 girls is optimal and recommended. If more girls want to join the groups, it’s more reasonable to open two smaller groups.
Instructors can be teachers, hobby group leaders, or enthusiastic parents. There’s nothing difficult about giving lessons. One doesn’t have to be a person with technological education or have specific technological knowledge. In the first year, the tasks for girls are simple and playful, designed to increase interest in the technological world through great collaboration.
Our experience shows that both teachers and parents make good instructors.
How to get teaching resources?
We provide free resources to anyone who wants to run a girls’ tech group in a community or school. The resources include all physical facilities for conducting classes as well as video tutorials and written guides.
All HK Unicorn Squad resources for the lessons are packed in boxes, containing everything you need to conduct the lesson.
According to the logistics plan, every week throughout the course a box with necessary tools and instructions is sent to each group via the Omniva parcel machine (free of charge, as well). The day the box arrives will be agreed upon with each group beforehand. After the class, the box is sent back, and the following one is delivered for the next week. And so every week, until all lessons have taken place.
In the box that was in use, all the consumables are replaced, and it will be sent to another squad. This way, there’s no need to give each group its own personal tools for a specific lesson. Thus, the resources are recycled and we can be more environmentally friendly in our business.
Unicorns’ summer camp
Every summer, in addition to two courses per school year, there’s a HK Unicorn Squad summer camp where girls from our tech squads come together from all over Estonia. In the camp they do teamwork, solve technology-, math- and physics-based tasks, play various sports games, visit cultural establishments and meet inspiring female leaders.