While the integration of 3D printing technology has changed the face of ‘shop class’, the sex based disparity in those using the new shop equipment remains the same. As a result there continue to be a number of efforts to increase girls’ interest in and comfort with these advanced making technologies. Each program that has been instituted offers a unique set of parameters and has been the subject of praise and critique as disagreements develop over how best to narrow this gap.
One initiative, titled MakerGirl, is focusing on efforts to help girls in the rural county of Stephenson in Illinois to become comfortable with and maintain an interest in the possibilities provided by 3D printing. The program was created by students at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in response to a frustrating lack of female classmates as experienced by women at the university enrolled as engineering students. They began by offering workshops for girls on UI campus, but they quickly realized the need to make a bigger impact. So, they decided to create a mobile 3D printing lab that would allow them to take their sessions to areas that were otherwise underserved by opportunities to interact with advanced manufacturing technologies.
Their efforts are being rewarded with rave reviews both from the girls who participate and from their parents. Mother of two Kelly Duitsman Loschen expressed her support for the program, and for its origins at her alma mater:
“As a graduate of the University of Illinois College of Business and mother of two daughters, I am excited to see this program grow. My girls thoroughly enjoy the MakerGirl sessions. In addition to providing project based learning in the STEM areas, this program promotes female leaders and entrepreneurs. This program plans seeds that will create the next generation of change.”
The program was funded through Kickstarter as a way to host educational 3D printing sessions across the US to inspire young girls to become active leaders in STEM. The fundraising campaign began on March 1, 2016 and within 48 hours had reached 100% of its funding goal of $30K. In the end, 548 backers pledged $32,276 to the campaign. This funding has allowed the group to begin their travel to rural areas and bring the magic of 3D printing with them.
They are traveling with the technology and connecting with venues such as maker spaces, the Girl Scouts, and summer camps in order to offer the sessions. The most important stamp of approval is in the interest sparked in young girls, such as Tristen Carey:
“I made a star with a key on it made of hardened plastic because of one of these machines. It was really, really cool.”
Their road trip to bring the program to students began in June and is planned to last 8 to 10 weeks. In the short time that they have been on the road, they have already hosted over 20 3D printing sessions, reaching an estimated 300 girls and the staff has grown from the original 4 founders of the initiative to 21 ‘change makers’. With Ultimaker 3D printers and hands-on teaching methods, young girls’ interest in 3D printing is certainly on the rise thanks to the MakerGirl initiative. You can follow their progress and their thoughts through the MakerGirl blog. Discuss this program further as well in the MakerGirl 3D Printing forum at 3DPB.com.