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.

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!