Science and technology is branded, wrongly, as something that is associated only with boys and a lot of debate is going on regarding how to get younger girls actively take part in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) curriculum. A controversial approach is of ‘pinkifying’ tech in order to make the tech more appealing to females. The idea is to get females (of all age group) intrigued by tech and science by applying them to items that are relevant to them such as jewelry, clothing and other ‘girly’ stuff. Some consider it to be condescending since there are women out there who have made careers out of building engines for rockets and coming up with cures for fatal diseases. While all that is true, the approach is not that harmful when used with kids.
STEM Divas makes use of this approach, however, it doesn’t make the mistake of assuming that girls’ interest is only piqued by glitter and pink. Rather, it recognizes the fact that a number of girls, quite young ones, actually resonate better to ideas that are dressed up nicely in a good looking package. Pettee Guerrero is a STEM Outreach associate for Northern Illinois University who has created a program for helping science to be appealing to the girls practically shun science out from their lives because of the way they are introduced to it in the classrooms. While some girls are more than eager to take STEM coursework, many consider it to be ‘uncool’.
So, in a nutshell; STEM Divas’ work is making the coursework appealing and cool by tailoring it to the interests of the females who are 7-10 years old. The program has monthly meetings on a Saturday at the Northern Illinois University campus and carries out activities such as creating jewelry boxes, making soap, tie-dyeing clothing and making lip gloss, all the while learning about the tools and chemistry that are employed in the manufacturing processes. The most recent class was held on 6th February and introduced girls to 3D printing by teaching them how they can design their own jewelry.
The class lasted for four hours and started off with a lesson in how 3D models can be designed using Autodesk Fusion 360. However, only two 3D printers were at the disposal of the class and owing to this, not every girl was able to 3D print her design of the jewelry. However, each child was given a 3Doodler to create other shapes and jewelry – sky was the limit.
Mackenzie Thompson, a sophomore mechanical engineering major and STEM Outreach student worker said, “We showed them our 3-D printers, how they work and what the process is. These pens are basically 3-D printers, but instead of using a computer, they’re using their brain.” The next class is slated for 12th March and shall be focusing on musical instruments. Each workshop costs $42 for attendees and takes place from 9 AM to 1 Pm. The program has already proven fruitful; a number of girls who had shown no interest whatsoever in science and even disliked it actively have had a change of heart and mind once they realized that it can be used for their own interests as well.
Thompson said, “Our whole STEM Divas series, it’s just about getting girls interested in STEM and it’s about getting them more comfortable with it. A lot of studies have shown that one of the reasons girls don’t go into STEM is because it’s more focused toward boys, and so by having this class it’s kind of showing them that girls can do it and there’s a way to apply it in ways they’re interested in.”
Coming to the conclusion, we think that this is a brilliant way of getting females to take an interest in STEM and 3D printing is the best way to grab their attention. 3D printing allows them to be creative and make shapes and what not. What do you think about this approach of making use of 3D printing to get females to become actively interested in STEM? Do let us know.