Northwestern's First Session of the Year is a Success

by: Val Apolinario

I could feel the excitement in the air as the girls were brought in by their parents. Some were first-timers who had no idea what to expect, and others waited expectantly for us to begin.

The myriad of orange, yellow, and red leaves right outside the library had encouraged us to choose an Autumn theme. We asked the girls about their favorite parts of Fall and their answers still bring a smile to my face: hot chocolate, snuggling up in their blankets, and of course, all the candy they would receive from Halloween.

After an eventful brainstorming session, the MakerGirl team led the girls over to the computers, where they would build their creations using TinkerCad. I was partnered up with Lily, who wanted to 3D print an apple.

Although we only had a few shapes we could work with, Lily and the others girls took this in stride. A squiggly line became a cat’s tail, a circle became a key chain ring, and a sphere and a cylinder stacked together became an apple. As an engineer, I’ve learned that sometimes you have to work within constraints, and it was amazing to see how easy it was for them to do it.

The room became abuzz with whirring machines beginning the girls’ creations. Each of them watched as the data was transferred from their laptops to the printers. The machine configured and began to create their designs. Lily pulled up a chair next to the machine to watch, transfixed by the movements of the pink filament.

I believe that the sooner we introduce the magic of science into children’s lives, the sooner they can begin to explore the world and ask more questions. There should be no limit to the imagination. 3D printing can be used to create the girls’ wonderful designs, hip and shoulder implants, car parts, really, anything we can think of. For young girls especially, being exposed to this can be the beginning of a lifelong fascination with science. With constant encouragement and curiosity, they can dream of doing anything and becoming anyone they want to be. I am a MakerGirl because I want to encourage girls to be smart and creative, because I know they are. I want them to know that science and technology is an option for them, that it’s a vibrant field that helps shape the world we live in.

At the end of the session, each of the girls went home with their designs, along with a few leaf tracings and bookmarks they had made while their creations had printed. There were cats, hot chocolate mugs, and dogs that hadn’t existed before the session that exist now in the world. I am incredibly proud of these girls and their limitless creativity. I know that this is just the beginning of many more amazing sessions.