HK Unicorn Squad (technology hobby groups for girls)

QUICK: programme-initiative

HK Unicorn Squad (technology hobby groups for girls)
HK Unicorn Squad
Education level:
Lower secondary education, Other
Year start:
Short summary:
Unicorn Squad is a privately funded, girls-only technology hobby group movement with a long term aim to increase the number of girls who would choose ICT and STEM related specialties as a career. The target group of the movement is girls in lower secondary schools. These hobby groups try to lessen girls “fear of technology”, increase girls’ interest in technology and robotics already in early ages. In addition, the programme scientifically measures if “girls only” approach has different effect compared to mixed classes.
Description and objectives:

According to Eurostat (see 'data' page) only 22.8% of employed ICT specialists in Estonia are women. In addition, girls are strongly underrepresented in extracurricular STEM courses among children aged 7-12 (for every ten boys, there is only one girl). The HK Unicorn Squad girls-only hobby groups aim to increase the number of girls that show an interest in STEM in this age-group (lower secondary education level) as well as maintaining that interest over time.


The founders of the movement are Kerstin and Taavi Kotka, a married couple, who started a “girls-only” technology hobby-group for their daughter Helena in September 2018, as she was kicked out from the technology hobby group at school given the explanation that the field is more suitable for boys.


Unicorn Squad hobby group is a “ready-to-use” solution. Teaching materials are fully prepared for the lessons along with video tutorials for the supervisor. Also, equipment for certain courses is provided by the programme. Course modules take place once a week. Teaching materials and equipment (e.g. robots and other teaching materials) for certain lessons are sent to mentors in a big plastic box weekly using a parcel machine. After using them, the mentor returns them or sends them to next group according to instructions from the HK Unicorn Squad project manager.


The interest and demand for girls-only technology hobby groups was so big that within two years the movement has engaged 1200 girls (age 7-14) all over Estonia. Active hobby groups are available in almost  every county of the country. The interest keeps on growing and additional hobby groups are constantly opened.

The HK Unicorn Squad reaches about 1200 girls (aged 7-14) all over Estonia. The long-term goal is to offer the opportunity to take part of the technical hobby group to the same number of girls as boys. In Estonia, this translates to a long-term objective of about 2500 girls.
HK Unicorn Squad has greatly impacted technical education for girls and the programme itself has become a success story in Estonia. At the current stage (with the formal launch of the programme in 2018) it is hard to tell the impact to the number of women in engineering due to the fact that the hobby group has operated for a short time period, but it is clear that HK Unicorn Squad has become a house-hold name. According to Taavi Kotka, one of the founders of HK Unicorn Squad, “the interest in the hobby group is far greater than they can offer right now.”   In addition, the hobby group has been a partner for other numerous projects and events, such as Rocket69 (TV show that has 100k+ viewers per episode - see profile at the 'programmes' tab) and as of 2021, the programme is contributing to the launch of the Rocket69 Science Studios.
Budget and funding model:
The programme is privately funded using a not-for-profit organisational model. The participation for kids is free.