By Rachel Berg
I started working for MakerGirl a nonprofit organization based in Champaign, Illinois, this year as a senior majoring in Industrial Engineering at the University of Illinois. MakerGirl’s vision is to inspire young girls to pursue careers in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math). The organization hosts workshops that teach girls ages 7-10 about various topics, basic modeling software, and 3D printing technology.
The participants are given a prompt - one of my favorites is "Design a tool that would be helpful if you were in outer space." They then brainstorm their invention on paper and model it through simple CAD software we teach them to use. Finally, they learn how 3D printers work, and they print out their invention to take home with them.
These sessions are held on campus at the University of Illinois, local libraries, elementary schools, and various community events. MakerGirl has the ability and supplies to operate sessions anywhere that has an Internet connection and electrical outlets. This broadens our impact as we can travel to many different places, regions, and states- like we have been doing the past two summers on our MakerGirl Goes Mobile Road Trips.
The most rewarding part is seeing how each girl’s interest in STEAM increases throughout the duration of a workshop. It not only inspires them, but it also inspires me. It gives me hope that girls will not shy away from entering these fields and that one day, they will play a role in shaping the future.
As a rising junior, last summer I had the opportunity to work for the United States Postal Service as a Network Operations Engineering Intern at their Engineering Headquarters in the suburbs of Washington, DC.
Two weeks in, I attended a departmental staff meeting with roughly twenty other engineers. I looked around at the other interns, to whom I had not had the chance to speak yet. I took note that there were only two other women. I don’t cross paths much with these two women due to the nature of our work, but I like to think I share something in common with them - an odd feeling of isolation. Most days I would go without speaking to another female engineer - not because I don’t want to, but because there just aren’t very many.
My hope is that this experience will soon be abnormal for female engineers - that through programs like MakerGirl, young women designers and builders will walk into rooms of their peers and see an equal number of men and women. I'm working toward that future, and hope the next generation will too!