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See GIFs of Hive76 making a giant version of Connect Four

Through car repair, Banks hopes to empower women to take on challenges big and small.

Patrice Banks had a great job as an engineer at DuPont, a nice home and, of course, that symbol of success — a brand-new car. "I was an auto airhead," she said about her time with her first new car, which wound up costing her more than it should have in repairs and maintenance she didn't understand. It's a term Banks, founder of Girls Auto Clinic and author of the new book Girls Auto Clinic Glove Box Guide used several times during her woman-geared car care demo at 1313 Innovation on Oct. 20. If there is a formula to her success as a women's car guru, it's her openness — about her history, including a troubled childhood in Phoenixville, Pa., an against-the-odds college degree and 12 years at DuPont. It was during her time at DuPont that she realized something: She was an engineer who felt like car maintenance was over her head. In fact, there were a lot of things around the house she wanted to do herself that somehow seemed like man tasks. So she did what you do when you want to share a journey and find like-minded people: She started a blog. It wasn't long before Banks noticed that the vast majority of questions were car-related. And that finding car maintenance resources for women was impossible. Those resources just weren't there. Knowing an opportunity when she saw one, Banks, still working for DuPont, enrolled in evening auto repair classes at Delaware Tech. "I was nervous — it was all 19- and 20-year-old guys," she said. "I learned I couldn't stand back. I had to say, 'I'm doing this, get out of my way.'" The goal was to open her own auto shop will all female mechanics and a salon where women could get their nails done while waiting for an oil change. Last year, she met that goal when she opened the first Girls Auto Clinic in Upper Darby, Pa. It's not just intimidation-free car repairs, Banks is here to educate. She doesn't want you to come in for a repair and have no idea what it is, what may have caused it and why it costs what it costs. And if it was your fault — say, you ignored the squeaking tire noise or kept driving with the oil pressure light on — she's probably done it herself in her former "auto airhead" life. She holds monthly, free car-care seminars at her shop, where she comes out in her trademark red heels and talks woman to woman. "Is synthetic [oil] better?" someone asks. "If your car doesn't require synthetic only, you don't need to use it," she says. "It costs more, but lasts longer. Like gel nail polish — it costs more than regular polish, but it stays on longer." The women laugh nervously. It's jarring to hear girly metaphors for car care — and Banks wants to change that. Car maintenance can be as feminine as anything. After all, as she says, more than half of all drivers in the U.S. are women, and women make the primary car buying decisions in most households. She's definitely onto something. She's been in Oprah's magazine and GMA; people around the country, including Wilmington Mayor Purzycki, want her to set up her next shop in their town. [caption id="attachment_33274" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]Patrice Banks with Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki. (Photo courtesy of Capital One) Patrice Banks with Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki. (Photo courtesy of Capital One)[/caption] "When are you opening in Trolley Square?" Purzycki asked as he introduced her for a talk and Q&A, all part of the event that had been orchestrated by Jenn Walters-Michalec of Capital One. "This is just the beginning," Banks said, assuring the audience that franchises or partnerships were planned. The turnout and the enthusiasm of the women who came to see Banks (ranging in demographics from preteen to senior) shows just how much of an impact she's already made. "It fits with our approach for community engagement at Capital One," said Capital One Delaware Market President Joe Westcott. "We have a Future Edge investment strategy that includes women's entrepreneurship and small business development. We thought the program would be inspirational, so we engaged with some of our other partners to bring folks together to hear her message." Clearly, it's a message people want to hear. If you can't make it to see Banks in person or visit her shop, you can still get auto advice from woman mechanics and amateur enthusiasts in her SheCanics Facebook Group, a woman-only car care community.

The team at Callowhill hackerspace Hive76 spent three weeks building a giant Connect Four for Philly Tech Week. Controlled by a Dance Dance Revolution pad, the game was a favorite at the Arcade @ the Oval kickoff and the closing Signature Event at the Comcast Center.

Among the organizers of this project are members Dan Provenzano, Chris Terrell and PJ Santoro.

See GIFs of Hive76 building the game on team member Chris Terrell’s blog.

Companies: Hive76
Projects: Philly Tech Week
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