Sparking a STEM Career During Spring Break: YTF’s 3D Printing Academy for Girls

Most girls in the U.S. report an interest in STEM fields, but only 24 percent of women currently in the workforce have a STEM job. Women are even less represented in engineering– only 15 percent of that field is female.

To help close that gap, we commit to empowering girls from an early age to continue developing their interests in STEM careers. We found one model to help take that interest and turn it into a tangible career path – 3D printing.

Earlier this month we opened the doors to our second 3D Printing Academy for Girls spring break camp at our U.S. headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky led by an all-female YTF staff.

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Our group of young engineers jumping for joy after showing off their experience to their close ones on family day.

Girls from the area, ages 11-14, were equipped with laptops that included TinkerCAD and Fusion 360 software, prepped to design and print objects on a Cubify or MakerBot 3D printer. Inspiration and training filled the curriculum, from documentaries on inventors to live product demos, with the promise of 3D printed jewelry by the end of the week.

Empowering STEMinist Messages

Technology companies and organizations filled each day with creative activities and speakers to educate and empower our participants.

Our speakers this year included:

  • Angelique Johnson, a University of Louisville assistant professor, shared her career path and her work in hearing aid device development.
  • Mary Beckman, community manager from FirstBuild, spoke about being an engineer. She partnered with Sarah Morris, a University of Louisville student in the Digital Manufacturing and Design Program.
  • Mary Fugier from McNeel’s Technical Support and Training division taught how to use the Rhinocerous 3D modeling software.
  • Jennifer Lea, lead electronics design engineer at GE Appliances, a Haier Company, demonstrating electrical engineering.
  • Erica Nwankwo, design education evangelist from Autodesk, demoed special 3D printing design features in Fusion 360.
  • Sydney Dahl, NPI project manager at MakerBot, shared her career path and explained her role in creating MakerBot printers.

These powerful women painted an image for our girls of what their future could look like as female engineers. 

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Dr. Angelique Johnson starting off the week of empowering messages from female engineers with an encouraging speech to all the young girls at the camp.

The first speaker of the week, Angelique Johnson, showed admiration for the group’s willingness to attend camps such as this one and supported their passion to pursue STEM-related fields. 

“I want to stay in management to help other women in tech like myself reach their goals,” said Dahl.

Following closely after, Mary Fugier presented a Rhino Tutorial and showed the students how to 3D design a lemon squeezer.

Tools of the Trade

The girls were introduced to 3D printing at the beginning of and reviewed throughout the week through videos on the printing process and materials to help support the training.

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Our teacher Lily working one-on-one with student Chloe.

Other core learning activities included:

  • A computer aided design (CAD) tool used to create models for 3D printing, called TinkerCAD, was introduced to begin making 3D objects. 
  • Another CAD tool, Rhino, where students typed in commands to create a collage of simple objects.
  • The OzoBlockly robot programming platform, with which students
  • Web programming introductions using Komodo IDE, FileZilla, and GoDaddy. 
  • Basic sketching and how to manipulate a special digital design surface called T-splines using Autodesk’s Fusion 360 CAD program. 
  • Two fun class projects with TinkerCAD: making coins and creating a “diamond” ring.

3D Printing as a Platform for Learning and Exploration

The girls were eager to learn, ask questions, readily participate in hands-on activities, and actively problem-solving. 3D printing is a unique activity, working equally well for group projects and individual work.

One girl, Pragya, expressed many of her ideas freely to the group and became an outstanding team manager during a game-building exercise. Another student, KeAris, enjoyed making 3D designs such as her own name and even printed a design with the name of her nana, Norma. The flexibility allowed students with a range of learning styles to stay involved in their work and flex their creativity.  

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From left to right, Jazmine, Kaema , and KeAris taking notes during a lesson.

The week-long academy concluded with a final review and a proud show-and-tell demonstration for Family Day.

We at YTF want to absolutely highlight our partners like:  University of Louisville, Society of Women Engineers, Best Buy, PPG Foundation, Kentucky Center for African American Heritage, GE Haier and our technology partners including 3D Systems, McNeel & Associates, MakerBot, Lexmark and Autodesk.

Now, we’re excited to announce the next 3D Printing Academy is open to serve more girls in Louisville this June. Stay tuned for more information and future events on the 3D Printing Academy website.

The Skills Gap Up Close and Personal: Chiamaka’s Story

Secondary school graduate Chiamaka worked happily in sales at a supermarket in Owerri, Nigeria until they adopted a cashless policy and she was forced to quit due to her lack of experience with electronics. Fast forward six months, and Chiamaka has now acquired all the skills necessary to tackle any technological endeavor. The tables have turned so much that she now works at a technologically-focused company as a secretary, beloved by her boss. What changed?

Chiamaka in the middle of her classmates at graduation.

Chiamaka in the middle of her classmates at graduation.

This 22-year-old worker with no idea how to use digital stock inventory systems or conduct point of sale transactions on the computer isn’t that much different than others her age. According to a 2014 study by PWC, 96 percent of CEOs in Africa (compared to a global average of 63 percent) are concerned about the lack of skills.  

“In Nigeria, too many graduates lack non-academic skills.” Dozie Okpalaobieri, Director, Quincy Advisory Limited

At least two-thirds of unemployed youth in Africa are between 15 and 24 years old. Chiamaka did not receive ICT (information and communications technology) skills training in high school. Even if she had, technology has continued to advance drastically. Once she left the job at the market, she decided to enroll in YTF’s six-month program.

Once she left the job at the market, Chiamaka decided to enroll in YTF’s six-month program.

A Rejuvenated Future with a New Job

Our teachers noted how Chiamaka’s motivation and fast learning led her to high confidence once she joined the program. We provided her with internet access, a computer, a digital camera and other learning materials like practical booklets.

Chiamaka then had the chance to practice her skills as a YTF Academy graduate intern for two months.

Chiamaka second from the right focused on working her new-found skills on the computer.

Chiamaka second from the right focused on working her new-found skills on the computer.

After completing the program, a company called “FOR HIM COMPUTER” hired her as a secretary. This position builds on what she learned in YTF’s program and helps her further develop her skills in a professional setting. Plus, Chiamaka receives a round-trip transportation stipend each time she comes to work.

Chiamaka clearly has a desire to keep learning, with plans to attend a university next school year.

A Higher Education Motivation, Boosted by YTF

Chiamaka keeps dreaming of what she can achieve with her newfound skills, now hoping to be a world-class nurse in the future. We are so proud to see a student like Chiamaka go through a complete turnaround – from technology novice to a girl who can leverage technology to reach new dreams. 

We know hope remains for many other students just like Chiamaka, who is one of more than 100 YTF Academy students who go above and beyond in their studies. It’s not a surprising path, considering 96 percent of YTF program graduates go on to higher education within two years of graduating.

We at YTF see stories like this every day, and we can’t help but share our favorites. Stay tuned for the next student’s transformation journey.

A Supportive Community Equals a Thriving Business

What comes around goes around and a network of entrepreneurs keep the circle of support in the communities of Umudiator Village in Imo State. Mother and wife Mrs. Oluchi has the passion and creativity innate to support her trade. Since training with us, Mrs. Oluchi has also had a reliable network and the technological wisdom to continue a thriving business. Now Mrs. Oluchi gives back to the community and provides a tour of her workplace to YTF participants learning about entrepreneurship.  Continue reading

Problem-Solving into the Future: The Story of Priscilla

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Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce you to the world’s next state-of-the-art inventor. Her name is Priscilla. She enrolled in YTF through her school in Nairobi last year and was further encouraged to pursue a computer science degree after high school graduation. Her career choice would be dedicated to inventing “tools that will continue making work easier for humankind.” In other words, her hard work would make other people’s hard work easier. She, like many of us, wishes to make the world a better place. Unlike most people, however, Priscilla can choose a course, no matter how difficult, and stick with it.  

She has the uncanny talent of going over unexpected hurdles that seem to have very little to do with her passion for technology.

“One of the hardest things I have ever found myself doing is passing my history subject in school,” said Priscilla. “I always found history class hard for me but one day I forced myself to study it comprehensively and I passed a very hard paper. Now failure in history is in my history!”

Through her hard work ethic, Priscilla becomes an innovator even with subjects that are not directly related to STEM education. She takes the scientific method and applies its structure to her environment. She observes and measures the extent of the problem on a daily basis. She presents her hypotheses, and after life gives her the chance to experiment with solutions, Priscilla comes out with a sound, firm theoretical solution to whichever problem she chooses to focus on, breaking each aspect of her life into a scientific process.

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Problem: “I come from a community where most people are poor.”

Solution: “If I got the opportunity to change this state, that would create jobs for the youth and change their financial state, I would do it.”

Problem: “Political wrangles promote a country’s instability.”

Solution: “If I had the power in leadership, I would change political systems and the way people fight for power. I would help create a state that would promote peace in the nations.”

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Priscilla with her peers in YTF who also strive for a better world through technology.

Then Priscilla even wills her dedicated mindset onto her friends as she mentors them through their own challenges. Her friend Jane “hated biology in school, but after much convincing and a lot of practice and study, I was able to convince her otherwise.”

Priscilla doesn’t just overcome hard subjects; she finds a way to appreciate the topics and incorporate them into her life. Her broad knowledge of history, biology, and politics define as a sort of liberal arts student with a focus on technology. Priscilla even balances out her life with her prayer ritual that keeps her refreshed and confident in the morning. She says she “finds it refreshing to put her needs before God. I know He has me covered.” Priscilla allows different aspects of her life to all point her to education and achieving her dreams.

She prizes education highly and is hard on herself if she doesn’t try her best. Problem: Priscilla recalls one time when she “hid in the lady’s restroom for 90 minutes through a double lesson in school to avoid punishment of not completing my homework.” Priscilla said that it was “exceptionally unbecoming” of her and wonder how she could be so daring. While a rare occasion to her usual hard work ethic, Priscilla felt extremely embarrassed over the event and said that nobody would think she would run from her responsibilities. Hopefully, Priscilla learns that everyone has breaking points throughout their life and it’s what makes us human. Solution: We just stand back up and continue.  

Looks like we have a future world peace activist in the making. Will you join her in her scientific method of giving the world a better future? Click here to show support.

Best Buy Provides Grant to 3D Printing Academy for Girls

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Nov. 2, 2016—Last Thursday, we gathered at the Best Buy on Shelbyville in Louisville, KY to receive a grant from the electronics company. Chad Douglas, General Manager of this location, represented Best Buy when he presented the big check to Njideka Harry, founder and CEO of YTF. This award is specifically for our program 3D Printing Academy for Girls in Louisville, KY.

The Best Buy grant is awarded on an annual basis to encourage organizations to steer youths towards a STEM education. Best Buy provides the grant to multiple organizations throughout the Louisville, Cincinnati, Indianapolis area to multiple organizations throughout the years. This year, YTF was the only to receive the grant from around 60 other organizations that applied.   

‘“We want Best Buy to give back to the community,” said Chad. “To make sure they have the latest and greatest.”

Our 3D Printing Academy for Girls encourages female interest in STEM education through 3D technology to girls ages 8-12. We focus our attention in West Louisville, where the numbers are lower in participation in STEM fields.  It’s where 62% of youth are below grade level in science, which is 20% less proficient than the entire JCPS district.

WAVE3 News also appeared on the scene to cover the local story on how the community will be impacted.

Through the grant, YTF will be able to purchase technological equipment, software, and general programming related expenses for 3D Printing Academy for Girls. The appropriate use of technology allows youths to have the latest and greatest, and reach that untapped potential.

IMG_8888In addition, Best Buy is open to provide volunteers to mentor our participants when teaching 3D printing and is eager to provide space.

We are thankful and look forward to how we can further create a generation of innovators through community efforts such as this grant reception with Best Buy!

“My Desire to Learn Was Greater”: The Story of Beverline

We’ve all groaned at the thought of having to go to school in the early morning and repeat the mundane process of government-issued education. But what if going to high school wasn’t required and not many of our peers got the chance to attend?

Beverline, YTF student in Nairobi, Kenya

Beverline, YTF student in Nairobi, Kenya

Beverline is a form three (9th grade) student at Nile Road Secondary School in Nairobi, Kenya. Our 16-year-old YTF student admits that “the hardest thing I have ever had to do is go to high school … and I did it eventually because my desire to learn was greater.”  She has taken the reins of her passion and looks to the future with hope in technology.  

Similar to the college experience in the U.S., where the wealthy have the opportunity to continue their education, going to high school in Kenya is a luxury. Beverline’s desire to learn was greater than any hardship high school could throw at her both from her external circumstances and her inner fear.

Of the youth in Kenya, students like Beverline who attend high school are a minority. “Over a quarter of young people have less than a lower secondary education and one in ten did not complete primary school,” according to World Education News and Review. Even before YTF, Beverline “always had passion for computers and their applications.” The mountain of difficulties that stand in her way don’t stop Beverline from continuing her education.

Big name issues such as racism, poverty, gender inequality, and low graduation rates hover over Beverline’s home in Nairobi. But the trouble comes too close for comfort when her friends drop out of school because their parents couldn’t afford the fees or when her own neighbors don’t have access to basic human rights, like shelter. “My community is deprived of proper housing standards,” says Beverline. The environment she lives in doesn’t exactly provide a road to success. Then Beverline has to undergo the usual nerves everyone experiences of meeting new people and worrying about the regular concerns of schoolwork and drama.

While responsibilities in the traditional sense are often reserved for adult life, many burdens are often left on the shoulders of society’s youth. Through her personal ambitions, relations, and knowledge, Beverline takes on the burden of responsibility in exchange for a future of possible success. Since her participation with YTF in April 2015, Beverline has seen many changes in her life. Her friends have gained interest in the program, she has mentored her sister and cousins on overcoming life challenges, and her family is ecstatic with her engagement in education.

Beverline2Beverline revealed that her “family is happy that during the holidays I am actively engaged in the programs that are beneficial to me in the future and that can help me make money if I was able to apply them productively.”

No matter how great the challenge, what matters in the end is how great the effort and how many educational resources are provided. The turmoil of fighting your difficult surroundings shows how education is key to fulfilling your dreams. This techie-extraordinaire wants to be an IT expert and looks up to television anchor and renowned journalist in Kenya, Lilian Muli. Beverline loves Lilian’s confidence and wants to exhibit the same composure in real life. Her journey is just starting out, but the possibility for success is there. If you want to help Beverline and girls like her achieve their dreams, there are many ways to show support. There are volunteer opportunities and donation alternatives. Even keeping updated on the YTF story and spreading awareness helps more than you know.

“The price of greatness is responsibility.”-Winston Churchill