Sixth-grader Diana Gallego had to master several tech skills before sewing a light-up dress, designed to look like fire.

First, the 12-year-old first learned how electricity works by making circuit boards. Then, she figured out how to program an electronic string of wearable LED lights to produce a flickering flame effect.

So when she wears the dress on stage at an upcoming student fashion show, she’ll also be showing off a bit of STEM education, courtesy of Tucson Electric Power.

The Feb. 1 Make Fashion Edu STEM Runway show will feature custom-made clothes incorporating electricity, created in after-school classes by students at Hollinger K-8, Drachman Montessori K-8 Magnet and Pueblo High Schools.

The classes were funded in part by a TEP-sponsored grant from the Educational Enrichment Foundation (EEF), a nonprofit group that supports students and teachers in Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) schools. TEP committed $150,000 over three years to help EEF fund the grants as part of our philanthropic commitment to education.

TUSD teachers can request grants of up to $1,000 each for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) projects. Some grant-funded projects also incorporate artistic elements, like fashion, to help engage students.

“I like anything creative,” said Diana, who attends Hollinger K-8 School.

Teachers Twila and Elisa Busby, who are sisters, each received grants to help pay for materials, including the wearable, programmable lights.

Diana’s fire dress is part a series of costumes representing elements – earth, wind and water.

Anamaria Carrillo, a fifth-grader from Drachman, sketched her “earth” dress before making a lime-green satin gown featuring fabric flowers with lights for pistils.

“I like to sew things. I’m doing this for fun,” said Anamaria, 10. “I like how it glows.”

The Busbys brought the idea for the electronic fashion show back from China, where they taught for five years. Last year’s show was the first such Make Fashion Edu show in the United States.

“You have to have so many lights. It would be really hard to buy enough lights without the grant,” said Twila Busby, who teaches at Hollinger. “That’s why the EEF grant is so helpful.”

So far, a total of 60 TEP grants have been given to Tucson Unified educators. Grant applications for the 2020-21 grants are due by March 15. Find more information on the Education Enrichment Foundation website.

If you go: Make Fashion Edu STEM Runway and Gallery Show, 4:30 p.m. on Feb. 1 at Dunbar Pavilion, 325 W. Second St.

See a video of last year’s show.

Read more community news.

This story is part of our ongoing series highlighting one of TEP’s philanthropic focus areas – education. TEP works with non-profit partners to develop invitation-based donation requests for education efforts from July-Sept. Funds come from corporate resources, not customers’ rates. Learn more about donations.

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