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Women Makers Still a Minority, but Still Making 3D Printed Robotics Like this Beetle Bot

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beetle bot mainBack in January I wrote an article reporting on a survey taken by the online 3D printing service and web community Pinshape. The survey was attempting to find out who is 3D designing and printing. The results were fascinating, although of course not inclusive as Pinshape was compiling the data from its pool of users. Still, the statistics must have been somewhat reflective of the larger picture, the global 3D designing and printing community. One number in particular stood out for me: according to the survey, 81% of those people in the Pinshape community who were 3D designing and printing (of course, not everyone does both) were male.

That number, that 81%, was pretty striking but also not surprising. Women’s involvement in math, science and technology in the workforce lags far behind that of men–despite the fact that more women are working and nearly 60% earn bachelor’s degrees, they are still quite underrepresented in science- and technology-related fields. Women receive more than half of the bachelor’s degrees awarded in the biological sciences and 43% of the degrees in math and statistics, which is encouraging. However, in the computer sciences, women account for only 18% of the bachelor’s degrees and 11% in science and engineering. In the workforce, women make up only 8% of the electrical and electronics engineers, 17% of the industrial engineers, and 7 % of the mechanical engineers, and only 18% are working in the computer sciences (statistics provided by NGCP: National Girls Collaborative Project).

The Beetle Bot's mouth and skull in progress.

The Beetle Bot’s mouth and skull in progress.

A deeply disappointing statistic provided by ECS (Exploring Computer Science) tells us that computer science is “the only STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) field that has seen a decrease in student participation in the last 20 years.” Needless to say, that suggests that there’s going to be less participation by females than ever in computer science, which is pretty ironic given that our world — our lives, our jobs, our leisure activities and more — are increasingly more high-tech, more computer-driven.

It’s in this context I was delighted to see that the contributor of a recent 3D printing and electronics project posted on Instructables was a female with the screen name “EmmaSong.” Emma’s Bionic Beetle Robot made an appearance at the Bay Area Maker Faire in 2015 and she has shared the project instructions on her Instructables page.

3D-printed wings or carapace of the Beetle Bot.

3D printed wings or carapace of the Beetle Bot.

The Bionic Beetle Robot was, according to its creator, the result of an effort “to design a Bo-robot based on a miniQ platform. Thanks to 3D printing technology, I can print a bionic case of high-quality and lightness at a low cost.”

It’s not clear exactly what the 3D printed, mobile beetle robot actually does as there wasn’t a video of the thing in action available on Emma’s Instructables page. However, you will find a materials list with links to sites where the electronic components can be purchased, instructions for wiring, and photos of each step in the process of producing the Bionic Beetle Robot, which she also shared at DFRobot.

From the looks of Emma’s Instructables page, this is her first project shared on the site, although it seems pretty clear that she’s no novice. In addition to being an experienced 3D designer and printer, I’m hoping she’s a trendsetter as well and that we begin to see more and more projects posted by women and, moreover, girls and women being interested in and encouraged to pursue careers in fields in science and tech.  Have you challenged yourself and tried creating this 3D printed robot?  Let us know in the 3D Printed Beetlebot forum thread on 3DPB.com.

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