How my North Star led me to MakerGirl

by: Kim Quiroga

When I was younger, my dad once told me in Spanish,“If I had had the opportunities that you and your sisters have, I would be on the moon right now.”

My dad immigrated to the United States at the young age of 17, and has been working long days and nights to support our family since he stepped foot onto American soil. At the start of my college career, I promised myself that I would make the most of my college experience and leave my mark on campus, to validate all of my parents’ sacrifices and make sure they were worth all the hardship and pain. I want to reach the moon, not just for me, but for my family.

Junior year, my quest for a new adventure led me to MakerGirl, a nonprofit developed to encourage young girls to pursue an interest in STEM through 3D printing sessions. This was uncharted territory for me. I did not have a STEM background, and in all honesty the thought of something as simple as 3D printing was pretty terrifying for me.

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Prior to attending college, I was not exposed to coding, 3D printing, or what the concept of robotics really was. Jumping head first into MakerGirl introduced me to a different world, and possibilities in fields that I never would have thought were an option for me.

The number of women in STEM careers is appallingly low. But the number of women in these fields that come from underrepresented, low-income backgrounds is almost nonexistent. This is the community that I come from. Minority women comprise fewer than 1 in 10 employed scientists and engineers (NSF, Women, Minorities, and People with Disabilities in Science and Engineering, 2015).

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Freshman year I was told that if I truly wanted to grow and make an impact, I had to become comfortable with the concept of being uncomfortable. Knowing that I not only had my future in my hands, but also my family’s future, the thought of enduring this discomfort and still potentially failing was terrifying. Despite the fear of the unknown, being the oldest of three girls made me feel  that I owed it to my younger sisters and my community to mark my presence in the STEM community and open doors for them. There is something so amazing about seeing someone that looks like you, talks like you, and that comes from where you come from, doing something that you never thought was possible for you. I want young girls to see me and think to themselves, “If she can do it, I can do it too.”

Throughout my time at MakerGirl, I have spearheaded the use and expansion of its social media platforms and marketing campaigns. Having the chance to directly impact this nonprofit has enabled me to embrace the unknown and strive to be the best I can be. I am working toward a mission that is bigger than myself, which is incredible. 

At each MakerGirl session, I am able to touch the lives of bright young stars, whose faces light up once they see their print come to life. I have also had the chance to attend sessions in communities similar to mine, and reach young girls who remind me of an eight-year-old version of myself. MakerGirl has enabled me to learn how to embrace the beauty of the struggle, and to be fearless when pursuing my dreams. When I look at each of those girls, who remind me so much of me, I remember what my dad used to say about being on the moon, and I am reminded of another, more famous, saying: “Shoot for the moon—even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”