Making the World Better, Via West Louisville: Irena’s Story

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“Engineers try to make the world better and they want to see the world better,” 12 year old Irena explained. At YTF, we 100% agree. Nearly all of the girls that walk through our doors say they want to make the world better. So, what’s stopping them?

Research shows that adolescent girls disengage from science and math during their middle school years, although their interest is very strong.  Girls frequently do not have exposure to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) topics, related careers, or know women working in STEM fields.

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YTF’s 3D Printing Academy for Girls was created in 2016 to provide STEM inspiration for girls in Kentucky through making, inventing, and designing the world that they envision for themselves. Not only are they introduced to all things 3D printing, but they have opportunities to be mentored by women in technology and engineering.  

The students are exposed to design thinking with 3D printing, programming basics (using tools like Ozoblockly), and electronics (raspberry pi and Arduino). All this while being introduced to a comprehensive, industry applicable program taught using the Socratic method answering their own questions to stimulate critical thinking and to draw out ideas and underlying presumptions.

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Disengaging from STEM during adolescent years can be reversed by providing enrichment opportunities, hands-on learning, problem-based learning, exposure to women in STEM fields, seeing the practical impact for solving real-life needs, and mentorship from female experts in computer science and engineering.

YTF launched 3D Printing Academy for Girls strategically in West Louisville, where the a huge majority of youth (83 percent) live in poverty. Residents in the area African American (63 percent), Caucasian (37 percent), and Latino (one percent). The likelihood of participation in STEM fields is lower in West Louisville than for other students in the local school system (Jefferson County Public Schools).

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