There’s much talk about the importance of getting children interested in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) subjects and possibly eventual careers. There’s even more of an emphasis, among many organizations, on making sure that girls are being engaged in STEM. A gender gap exists in STEM fields, and there are multiple reasons for it, but one is that for years, girls have received the message that these subjects are for boys. That’s changing, but it’s a slow process and one that relies on the hard work of educators and technology organizations to show young girls that they can be successful in STEM, too.

A great way to start reaching large numbers of girls at a young age is through the Girl Scouts. The process of earning badges is a way to teach girls life skills while having fun and getting recognized for their accomplishments, and recently a troop of Brownies not only earned badges in engineering, they designed and 3D printed their badges themselves – a perfect way to gain hands-on experience in technology. The Brownies visited Renishaw at its Miskin facility in South Wales, and worked with Renishaw engineers in three sessions that saw them designing and 3D printing their own badges.

In the first session, the girls designed their badges by hand to include their own names and the Brownie logo. The following week, they toured the Renishaw facility and transferred their designs from paper to digital format through CAD, and saw the first of them 3D printed. Finally, Sarah Lewis, Fabrication Development Center Tutor at Renishaw’s Miskin site, visited the troop to deliver the badges.

“Working with the Brownie Group is just one of the many ways Renishaw engages with young people,” Chris Pockett, Head of Communications at Renishaw, told 3DPrint.com. “In South Wales, we use our dedicated education facility to engage with primary and secondary school pupils. We are also involved with a number of local and national education outreach projects to encourage young people to engage in STEM activities including work with; Greenpower, SS Great Britain Trust, Bristol Music Trust and our popular engineering work experience weeks.

The UK has the lowest percentage of female engineers in Europe. Offering activities to young people that portray engineering as a career that girls can aspire to is an important step in increasing this percentage.”

According to Simon Biggs, Education Liaison Officer at Renishaw, the company is now being approached by several other groups that are interested in doing something similar through educational sessions. Designing and 3D printing one’s own badge is a simple yet appealing way to begin to teach girls about engineering, to begin to plant thoughts in their heads that “maybe I can do this after all.”

“The Brownies were extremely grateful for the opportunity to experience something new and exciting,” said Steph Horsley, 1st Llanharan Brownie Leader. “It is a fantastic resource and to be able to try things that we cannot do in our own units is essential to developing the girls and hopefully inspiring them for the future. We thoroughly enjoyed it.”

You can find out more about Renishaw’s educational outreach here.

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