Linking Up in Chicago

By Rachel Tham

"Hmm… We should make the height smaller."

"Let's put it to the left a little. Here, I'll help you click the arrow to increase the size."

Hard at work, Mairin, a young girl I was helping to 3D design armadillo nahual, her Mayan spirit animal, was engaged with the project, making me even more determined to help her-- we were going to do it together, one step at a time. Zoom one hour later-- we succeeded in designing her armadillo, and even more exciting, Mairin told her Dad she even said she wanted a 3D printer for the holidays!

This was three weeks ago, when the non-profit, MakerGirl, had its annual Chicago team bonding trip, in which we traveled from Champaign to Chicago to launch our first session of the school year at LinkedIn. At Chicago, we planned to go to different professional development opportunities, including touring MHub and LinkedIn. For me, I was most excited to meet the cofounders of MakerGirl, Julia and Lizzy.

Our first stop was at LinkedIn, where we met up with Lizzy to set-up our LinkedIn 3D printing session. As we toured around the company, it was amazing finding out that so many at LinkedIn supports MakerGirl, as Lizzy introduced us, each employees' face brightened, realizing we were part of the MakerGirl team. Then, during the 3D printing session, we collaborated with Hispanics of LinkedIn Alliance (HOLA), which strives to have a thriving, supportive environment for Hispanics. This month was Hispanic Month, so the 3D printing session theme was printing nahauls, Mayan spirit animals. Seeing the LinkedIn employees glow with excitement as they experimented with designing their own 3D printed objects and the diversity the LinkedIn environment supports was wonderful-- I felt like I was making a difference in showing the creative potential through STEM.

Next, we went to MHub, a new Chicago non-profit start-up with forefront technology labs accessible to entrepreneurs who are working towards starting their own start-ups, from credit card companies to artistic pursuits. The 3D printing lab was especially impressive, with very precise stereolithography and dozens of smaller 3D printers. It was wonderful to see another non-profit want to provide access to tools to help people pursue what they want to do: the sole goal that MakerGirl has for young girls to pursue STEM.

After the tour, we then went to Julia's to eat a team dinner, where we discussed our individual hobbies, interests, and goals. I learned so much about my teammates during this; I didn't realize how diverse each of our goals and interests are. Mary's pursuit for cosmetic chemistry, Charlotte also wanting to get into renewable energy, Shachi's Girls Who Code leadership, and Kim's involvement with consulting, were all different and interesting. It made me realize what diversity means in a team-- that we all come from different interests and backgrounds, but we also have the sole goal to directly contribute to helping girls like us pursue and explore STEM.

The next day, we continued our team bonding trip with exciting rock climbing at the Brookyln Boulders, where we cheered each other on as we climbed 50 feet walls and bouldered. Then, the most exciting part-- we went on a three hour food tour around Chicago! We learned about the different histories of local restaurants, from Jay's Beef to Mindy's Hot Chocolate, we had lots of food and had fun getting to know each other while enjoying the great weather. The falafel was my personal favorite, but I also loved Stan's donuts and Mindy's rich and soothing hot chocolate.

Overall, this trip was very valuable to me because I got to know my MakerGirl teammates on a more personal level, which made us closer and collaborate even more. I'm especially grateful for Lizzy and Julia for hosting us! I can't wait for the next MakerGirl Chicago trip, and I'm even more excited to work with my teammates to continue developing our own MakerGirl spirits as well as inspire more girls, like Mairin, to pursue STEM, as we continue to expand to Chicago! Let's all continue to inspire more #MakerGirls and #ChangeMakers!