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For Us, By Us: 5 Modern Creations by Black Women in STEM


October is the UK’s Black History Month. The theme for this year is ‘saluting our sisters’, which aims to celebrate inspirational Black women throughout history. In science, Black women have been key contributors to many inventions that we use today. These inventions range from Sarah Boone’s 1891 designs for the modern ironing board to Dr Marian Croak’s Voice Over Internet Protocol, which is the voice technology we use to communicate through programmes like Zoom and Skype (1,2).


Unsurprisingly, Black women are still creating incredibly useful things today. Social media apps like TikTok are full of great tips, tricks, products, and modern solutions to everyday problems under hashtags like #blackgirlhacks and #blackwomeninstem. This blog post explores 5 creations made for us, by us.


Technology


Technology can help improve our lives in various ways such as helping us make decisions more easily. The first three creations discussed in this post showcase just how useful technology can be in helping us solve everyday problems.

a Black woman standing up and braiding her own hair. She is wearing a pink t-shirt and black bottoms with a white butterfly repeating pattern
Image by PNW Production, from Pexels
  1. Hair Partitioning TikTok Filter

Whether you’re braiding your own hair or someone else’s, parting hair evenly can be a challenge. Konnie Kay Wells, an engineer and TikTok content creator known as @Krysanthum, has come up with a creative tech solution to help ensure that your parts are always even.


Konnie Kay developed a series of free TikTok filters that help to guide parts for small braids, large braids, and middle parts using a combination of art and coding. She talks through the process of creating the filters in this video.


These filters are a great resource for anyone who is just starting out in their braiding journey or if you just need a little extra help making sure that your parts are just as crisp as the aunties in the local salons.


You can find the filters on Krysanthum’s profile on TikTok.

2. Hairstyle Random Generator


If you’re someone who has trouble deciding what your next hairstyle should be, Nolabelle’s hairstyle random generator app might be just what you need.


Nolabelle is a bioengineer and content creator on TikTok known as @thebabyhairengineer. The web-based app she coded offers 18,000 unique hairstyles across 6 different categories to choose from. The categories include natural hairstyles, locs and other braided protective styles.


The app is constantly evolving, with the addition of pictures and styling tutorials still to come. Currently, the app is available to purchase for £2.50 on Etsy and Nolabelle has video guides on how to download and use the app on her TikTok profile.

A young Black person sitting in front of a computer playing video games
Image by Ron Lach, from Pexels

3. Black hairstyles and other Custom Content for Sims Characters


If you are a gamer, you may often be left frustrated by the lack of options for Black hairstyles and skin tones when creating your avatars. Danielle, better known as Ebonix in the online gaming community, is a full-time content creator with a passion for ensuring that there is representation in gaming. She has created custom content for Sims characters which gives you access to a large range of braided and natural hairstyles.


You can find her work on her website alongside her list of other creators who have made custom content and character skins that allow for a wider range of nail art, clothing, tattoos, and skin tones.


Community


Making friends and finding community can be difficult as an adult. If you are someone looking to make more Black women friends, the final two creations highlighted in this post may be able to help.


4. Sistren App


The Sistren App was created by Olivia Hylton in 2022 to help Black women find and connect with other Black women. Sistren aims to help Black women find and build friendships with other Black women near them who share their interests. On Sistren people can list events that they would like to attend. These listings are open invitations to other members of the community. Sistren is now both an app and a community that is available worldwide.


Olivia initially created the app on a no-code platform. You can find out more about her app creation journey in this video. Although the app is not currently available on any app store, you can still download the app to your phone and it will show on the home screen and function just as any other app. You can find joining instructions on the website and user tutorials on the Sistren TikTok profile.

5 Black women standing on a pavement laughing together
Image by Nappy, from Pexels

5. The Black Women in Science Network


If you’re reading this, you likely already know a fair amount about the Black Women in Science (BWiS) Network. For anyone joining us for the first time, BWiS is a community built for and by Black women in science. BWiS was founded by Tomi Akingbade and has been going strong for more than 5 years.


As a member of the community, you can meet and befriend other Black women through our regular online and in-person events. Whether you’re looking to vent about your work to someone who gets it, or if you’re just looking to make friends with more Black women, there is always a place for you here at BWiS.


Special Mention: Other Community Groups


The two groups mentioned above are just some of the places you can find community. If you are looking to expand your network of friends even further you can join more interest-specific groups like:

A Black woman sitting on a rock at the top of a mountain. She is wearing a pink t-shirt, black leggings and black and pink trainers
Image by Gina Tigere, from Unsplash
  • Black Girls Hike – a walking group that meets regularly to hike in different locations. The group is primarily based in the UK but often hosts events abroad. Members of the group have traveled to Mallorca, Bulgaria, and Norway and are even planning a trip to Ghana next year.

  • Black Girls in Art Spaces – a network similar to Sistren that focuses on bringing together Black women who are interested in art and other creative events. The group was founded in the US but has a presence in multiple countries around the world, including the UK.

  • Black Girl Swim Club – the main aim of this group is to help support Black women on their journey to learning how to swim by offering 5-week swimming courses with qualified teachers. The group has an online community and is open to swimmers of all abilities.

Black women, both in history and today, have worked and continue to make the lives of other Black women easier for years through our creativity and innovation. There is no limit to what we can do. There is a whole world of useful creations out there, this list represents only a small fraction of what Black women have to offer. If you come across any other great inventions by Black women or create something yourself, don’t hesitate to share them with us on Instagram or X (formerly known as Twitter).


By Esther Ansah, Blog Writer

References

1. Biography.com Editors. Biography. 2021. Sarah Boone - Inventor of the Modern-Day Ironing Board. Available from: https://www.biography.com/inventors/sarah-boone

2. Markovitz G. World Economic Forum. 2020. The woman who put voice on the internet explains what it takes to innovate. Available from: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/11/the-woman-who-put-voice-on-the-internet-explains-what-it-takes-to-innovate/


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