Battle Born Heroes Innovate
Oct. 22, 2021

The UNLV International Gaming Institute’s program dedicated to science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) learning for middle school-aged  girls from Clark County’s historically underrepresented communities—Battle Born Girls Innovate—is now Battle Born Heroes Innovate (BBHI).

Gen Z—BBHI students—have an evolving understanding of gender that goes beyond the man-woman binary. In the United States, 56% of Gen Z’ers surveyed know someone who uses gender-neutral pronouns (e.g. they/them) and over one-third strongly agree gender does not define a person as much as it used to (Laughlin, 2016). This led BBHI Program Founder Shekinah Hoffman and BBHI Program Coordinator Itzel Alanis to ask their students to reimagine the program’s brand to better reflect their generation’s spirit and their unique vision of Nevada’s STEAM future.

After a unanimous vote, students chose Laughlin Middle School’s Jessie B. 's design, Battle Born Heroes Innovate. When asked about their rebranding inspiration, Jessie states:

“I chose [Battle Born Heroes Innovate] because in the science we do, we could grow up to save people. Science is used in almost every heroic thing, whether it’s superheroes or saving lives in a hospital.”

BBHI will continue to target young women and gender minorities and offer majority women guest speakers, but now welcome students of all genders to attend the monthly online workshops. 

By interacting with BBHI’s majority women speakers and peers,and attending workshops led by UNLV male faculty who are exemplary STEAM allies, male students will learn how they can better support and advocate for women students  in their classrooms today and their future STEAM workplaces tomorrow.  

Students who do not identify as women express  that the brand change excites them. They feel they can now be truly represented in the program. BBHI is a safe space to share their nonbinary or genderfluid identities. 

Since its 2019 launch, the Battle Born program has offered ten workshops. Eighty-six students from twenty-three Clark County School District TItle I middle schools have attended. Students gain mentorship from workshop leaders and make new friends from other schools.

BBHI will continue to hold monthly online workshops this fall. The program remains online as students voiced they prefer the virtual format. While new students are welcome to join, the majority of monthly participants are ‘regulars,’ students who come back each month hungry for new learning—a sign of the program’s early success. In fact, 71% of BBHI students say they were more interested in learning more about STEAM after participating and over half (53%) learned about a future career path they may be interested in. 67% are now considering a STEAM career. It is evident the BBHI data-driven model is fruitful.