by Rachel Tham
"I wish I had that when I grew up."
This is what I hear, repeatedly, whenever I discuss the 3D printing projects that MakerGirl does with groups of 7-10 year olds. Hearing this reminds me of how important MakerGirl's work is-- just last month, we were teaching young girls to build facial recognition wooden robots, and the day before, 3D printing designs.
MakerGirl's vision-- to encourage young girls in STEM-- aims for the long term, that girls, like me, need a positive support group to express their creativity. That's why we started a new chapter of MakerGirl: expanding beyond Urbana-Champaign with permanent Academies.
On Tuesday, we trained and bonded with our new MakerGirl Directors from Northwestern, DePaul, and UIC. We learned about how a MakerGirl session is managed, in addition to planning next steps for the first expanded MakerGirl Academies first session.
But even more central to this training session was getting to know the team-- we had a big team bonding dinner, introducing teammates from diverse discipline backgrounds, from Engineering to Business.
For me, it was wonderful getting to know each Director from completely different backgrounds, yet all sharing the core belief with MakerGirl-- a future where each individual has the opportunity to be free from creative judgement and encouraged to learn and build with an open-mindset.
This one day of amazing activities was an accumulation of planned organizing and learning more about how MakerGirl can improve now and in the future. Just in January, Pree, Lizzy, and I began planning and reconsidering how we were approaching expansion, and realized that we need to continue the central MakerGirl idea that college students should be the leaders of our new academies-- that the foundation should be on college campuses, with accessible 3D printing lab spaces friendly to all ages.
Most of all, what I learned is that planning needs to be realistic-- It's valuable to have a bigger picture goal, but it's also significant to break it down into smaller steps in order to achieve what we want-- new MakerGirl Academies and outreach to more young girls. As a result, we started with getting to know contacts already in the area; Lizzy met personally with each new Director, and I planned the organization and logistics of expanding, making sure each Director gets the resources they need. Through this process, we found improvements that MakerGirl can make within it's own non-profit structure.
With our plan, we founded two new academies at Northwestern and DePaul University in two months.
The next step is to start a regular new Academies schedule, and support the new Directors to being independent leaders with the Academy curriculum.
This is the beginning of a new MakerGirl chapter; I'm excited to work with the new Directors, and even more determined to contribute to MakerGirl's vision that with collaborative perseverance, we can and will achieve any challenge.