Kendall Furbee is a sophomore studying Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Illinois, as well as the Internal Marketing Manager for MakerGirl, an organization that this summer traveled 10,000 miles around the country to bring 3D-printing workshops to over 1,000 young girls.MakerGirl, a non-profit organization that exposes girls to STEM through the art of 3D printing, began with just four students at the University of Illinois who were asked to solve a social issue they saw in the world. By inspiring young girls, MakerGirl sessions help create a new generation of confident, creative women leaders. Throughout the past two years, MakerGirl has expanded, impacting more and more girls along the way. The constant question that MakerGirl asks is what more can be done to impact young girls. The idea of a MakerGirl road-trip arose from this question -- it was the perfect way to inspire girls across the country.
MakerGirl successfully completed a Kickstarter campaign to fund this cross-country trip, raising $32,000 in personal donations, $13,000 in corporate sponsorships and receiving a generous donation of 15 3D printers from Ultimaker. Equipped with 3D printers, laptops, and creative session materials, the MakerGirl Mobile allows MakerGirl to bring 3D printing to areas where girls may not typically have access to technology. At many MakerGirl Mobile sessions, the girls attending have never seen a 3D printer. At even more sessions, the girls attending never imagined that 3D printing could be a fun way to combine science, technology, engineering, and math to create an artistic design of their choosing. MakerGirl Mobile allows these girls the chance to interact with this exciting technology first-hand. The girls leaving the session come away with their 3D printed object, an understanding of how 3D technologies work and can be applied, and a sense of confidence in their ability to create and innovate.
This summer MakerGirl hosted 61 sessions across over 10,000 miles for 1,000 girls, following a route that took us to New Hampshire, Texas, California, Wisconsin, and lots of places in between, as shown here:
At the beginning of almost every session, the girls are quiet and hesitant to interact with one another. As the session progresses, the volume increases little by little. Once the girls see their prints come to life the energy in the room is unlike anything else. They are bubbly and inquisitive, asking one another what they designed and listing all of the unique things they would choose to make if they had the chance to use a 3D printer again. The girls leave the session with a 3D print that they designed themselves, new friends, and the mentality that STEM is a girl’s game too.
Watching a new side of a young girl come out from our session is remarkable. At City Impact in San Francisco, one of the girls walked in the room, took one look at the 3D printers lined up against the wall and screamed, “WOW, IT’S BEAUTIFUL!!”
The theme of most of our sessions on the road has been Dreams and Goals, where participants get to design and 3D print an object that reminds them of their goal, which can range from a goal they have in school or a sport, to a future dream such as what they want to be when they grow up. The 3D printed objects they walk away with will continue to remind them of the goals they would like to accomplish. In the future, our hope is that seeing this small 3D-printed object will rekindle memories of the steps they had to take to make that object (brainstorming, designing, printing). This helps them realize that accomplishing their goal will take many steps, too. Seeing their personalized object every day will encourage them to take the steps necessary to accomplish their goals.
You can see many of the designs that participants created at our workshops in our MakerGirl Goes Mobile collection on YouMagine. Here is a picture of one of the models from an aspiring ballerina in Bowling Green, Kentucky, both in the design stage and as a 3D-printed object that she got to take home:
The most emotional part of the trip for me was when a mother in Tulsa approached me with tears in her eyes, thanking me and showing her appreciation for our stop in her city. She told me that her daughter loved STEM but never had the chance to experience an encouraging environment. From watching her daughter throughout the session, I could tell that she, like me, had a passion for building and creating. I’m so happy that our session could remind her to continue to pursue STEM.
Here's a video we put together of all our workshop stops from this summer. 64 days, 10,000 miles, 61 sessions, and 1,000 girls!
Dedicating my summer to MakerGirl Goes Mobile was a life-changing experience for me. I developed skills I would never have been able to learn at school, from getting insurance and unhitching the trailer to fixing and maintaining our 15 3D printers. For 2 months, I have watched young girls tackle a concept completely foreign to them, 3D printing, without stopping to question whether it is a task they can pull off successfully. The enthusiasm from the girls is infectious, and from MakerGirl Goes Mobile I have walked away with the mentality that pushing my boundaries begins with eliminating my fear of being wrong.