Despite the fact that girls are enrolling in engineering and industrial design courses in greater numbers, the gender gap in these professions is still a palpable reality. Girls STEAM education aims to add excitement to STEM learning by adding the element of creativity to encourage more girls to see engineering and industrial design as great career paths for them to explore. Tom Hazzard and Tracy Hazzard revisit the subject of girls STEAM education with an episode featuring Suz Somersall. Her website, KiraKira.com, is an online educational platform for girls to develop their 3D modeling skills by creating free courses and curriculum for 3D print STEAM education. HP and other tech industry notables have partnered up to support broadening 3D education for girls. This is highly relevant when so many parents and educators are looking for virtual learning options.
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Igniting Girls STEAM Education with 3D Digital Design to Print with Suz Somersall of KiraKira – Updated 2020
In this episode, we’re going to talk and revisit the subject of Girls’ STEAM Education. This is an important episode to bring back to our audience and to put some new context on. There is a bigger need than any of us thought there was going to be.
There are some of you out there going, “What about the boys?” We want the boys to have Boys’ STEAM Education too. We want it to be STEAM and not STEM, and there’s a reason for that. We are big proponents of it because we both have Art degrees and that might be the case. We might be a little bias there and I will straight upfront admit it. We have three daughters and we run through the gamut of ages and we’ve gone through various education systems in different states for all these girls. We’ve seen a lot of what goes on. What we understand and know is when we add the little art element, the creativity and the excitement of art to it, we make STEM learning go faster. That’s exactly what we’ve discovered in the process. We make it more fun, useful and relevant to them. It doesn’t matter whether they’re boys or girls, but girls tend to respond to this in a more practical way like, “I can create and use that. I can create and get that.” They tend to like that more than the straight learning of something. They like the practical application of things, but they like them to be creative and have that creative license on them. That has to do with the way girls’ brains work, as we’ve discovered from raising some that their brains tend to work in that world of creative and personal expression, faster than boys do.
I don’t want to leave the boys behind here. Seriously, art is hugely important to me. It makes it more fun. There’s so much curiosity that goes on in art, which is important. With all the distance learning and teaching going on, the curriculum that we talk about in this episode, we are sharing with you and bringing back an older episode that’s still relevant now. I would argue more relevant than it was at the time, especially with that serious need for learning this kind of curriculum remotely, 3D Print STEAM Education is huge.
Why are we pushing this on the Girls’ STEAM Education side? It’s because only 12% of engineers are women, less than 10% of industrial product designers are women. We look at that and say, “There’s still a glut of that need for them to go into the workplace and bring us more broad ideas and expand our thought processes on what’s valuable in terms of products, services, companies, engineering process and manufacturing. We want that balance of perspective that it’s going to make for greater innovation.
We’ve got to fill the gap. There is a big gap in not only in business, in education and people studying engineering and industrial design, but people in the workforce in engineering and industrial design.
Those numbers are the ones who output. We have a little bit more equality in terms of going into our educational systems and started studying engineering. It’s not quite parody or anything like that. It’s better than it’s ever been, but they don’t come out and practice. There’s a problem with that and that is something we also have to address on another side. There’s a bunch of other episodes we’ve done and some articles that I’ve written on that side as well. We need to engage them, incite them and make them believe that this is a viable future for girls. When we do the Girls’ STEAM Education, it translates into career path view and perspective that, “This is a great career that I want to explore.” Thinking about that, we love the programs. This episode is about igniting Girls’ STEAM Education with 3D digital design and 3D print. It was with Suz Somersall of KiraKira. The reason we’re bringing this out is that HP, Intel, Autodesk, Fast Company, Inc. and Parsons all partnered up to support KiraKira to get them out, to get their broader base going. Since then, they have not been in full practice. Their site exists. They have great projects, but they’re not loading new things in. I’ve reached out to Suz, but I didn’t get a response in time for this episode. If it happens, I will put her response at 3DStartPoint.com. The last time they added something was 2018.
That was unfortunate. The reality is everything that they have up on the website is still available. You can still download it.
We had our middle daughter download and do some of the projects in there and play with some of them. She was having quite fun because there are some fun and interesting things she could create for her bedroom and some other things. It was fun for her to be able to use still the projects that they have on the site. Those are still available, but before we go into the episode, we want to mention that there are some others. There are girls who are coding, Kode with Klossy, which was camp-focused and was working in a slightly older demographic than our daughter is. It’s like girls thirteen and older, and it works on coding, not just 3D printing. There are a lot of those out there that are still operating, doing some amazing work and you’re going to find some excitement. You can google ‘Girls’ STEAM Education’ and you would be surprised how many great programs you can find out there if you’re looking for some of those distant learning or virtual classroom kinds of things. There are great things. There are projects for boys as well. There are a lot of fun things going on, but they’re challenging, accessible, easy to learn and they are step-by-step. I’ve added a couple of projects board that they have. I’ve added a couple of those projects that we highlighted that we thought were fun that our middle daughter responded to, so we wanted to share that with you as well. I can’t imagine anything more powerful than blending art engineering together.
It’s incredibly powerful and they need each other. These are not mutually exclusive disciplines.
We’ve been talking a lot in this and you’ll learn it coming up in some episodes as we start to get into the design and engineering portions, which are coming up after this, but you should start to think about that world where software and all of these things are shifting to a much more artificial intelligence and a machine learning model. That’s when your art background, your ability to creatively express to shift the algorithms to move it to something that human beings love and products that they’ll buy and use again. That’s what we talk about here when we talk about products. Think about things that they feel comfortable doing in the world too. Those require us to have a little bit of that art sensitivity and a little bit of that art background in the earlier that we give to kids. It’s hard to teach creativity later in life, but it is easy to teach it early on.
It’s important to have the art and design element, especially when you get into AI because AI is based on data. It may come up with the most efficient solution, with a safe solution in terms of personal or public safety, but that’s what is going to attract you to it and make you want this object. I still firmly believe that there’s this human art element that makes an emotional connection with the consumer that is supercritical.
That’s why we are such big proponents of STEAM Education in general because we’re parents of daughters, Girls’ STEAM Education. I want to lead you into letting us talk a little bit about KiraKira and we’re going to do our interview with Suz Somersall.
Igniting Girls STEAM Education with 3D Digital Design to Print with Suz Somersall of KiraKira – originally aired on December 28, 2016
Suz, thanks for joining us.
Thanks for having me. I’m excited to speak with you.
We are excited to talk about design in general. The intersection of design and technology is our favorite subject here. We know it’s yours as well. I love the idea of empowering young women and girls to adopt 3D printing and start joining. What gave you the idea for starting KiraKira?
It actually started probably a little bit a long time ago. I studied Metal Smithing and also Industrial Design and 3D Modeling at the Rhode Island School of Design. That’s where I first was introduced to essentially engineering tools using programs like SolidWorks, Autodesk products, also using engineering tools like 3D printers, CNC Milling Machines, laser cutters. I was using these programs that I never really thought I would be interested in, but I realized that these engineering and 3D modeling tools specifically allowed me to create anything I wanted to. They were exciting and fun for me. I used that knowledge to start an online retail company. It was essentially a jewelry company and I would 3D model all of my designs.
I had the opportunity to do a program at Darden UVA Business School. They had an incubator. I went to that incubator for my other company. While I was there, I kept having these UVA undergrad female interns that were excited to learn about 3D modeling. They would come to me and they heard that I knew about 3D modeling. They wanted me to teach them. I didn’t have time to teach them. I asked the head of the UVA mechanical engineering lab, “Is it okay if these girls go and take classes on campus?” He was thrilled. As everybody knows, this is a huge problem. The lack of girls in STEM, specifically in engineering and even more specifically in mechanical engineering. Only 7% of mechanical engineers are female in the US. They started taking the classes. They went to the lab and started taking intro classes and pretty quickly, they all lost interest.
I was pretty shocked. I was like, “Why is this happening?” I went over to the lab and I started taking the classes. I realized pretty quickly that the classes were boring. They were teaching them how to make things like wrenches and auto parts. The way that the classes were being taught was not creative. It was not the way that I learned 3D modeling in art school. I started creating my own classes that were more visually engaging, more fun, alternative content that was more compelling to my audience, which were young women. Teaching things like how to make an iPhone case, how to make a skateboard stuff, they’re the stuff that they were actually interested in. I found that both through having female role models, teaching the classes as well as having relevant content, was a much more successful way to engage young women.
This is why we started the podcast too. We thought that it wasn’t just so much that it was not engaging to women in general, but it was not engaging to your average person in general. It was more of, you had to be a tech geek and you had to love 3D printing and want to talk all the technical aspects of it in order to get any information at all. We thought, “We need to help people demystify it, get into it and not walk away,” because it seems too complicated, too hard or too overly technical when it’s unnecessary for it to be an opportunity for you.
We’ve been working with Intel and their education network. Our product is free. We’re not exactly selling our product, but giving our product and making awareness that our product exists within school systems. We found that there are lots of teachers and students that were scared about 3D printing. They thought it sounded cool and wanted to do it, but it sounds like either they had a bad experience with a 3D printer or it seemed too technical. It’s something that we’re playing with also is encouraging schools to purchase 3D printers and to do it on their own. If they’re intimidated by that aspect to at least get their feet wet by 3D modeling, creating their virtual products and then letting us 3D print the pieces for them. If they’re not ready to invest in a 3D printer yet, that shouldn’t be a hurdle. That shouldn’t be a stumbling block. We can take care of the printing.
3D modeling should come first anyway, it’s the art and design and thinking about what you want to make before you start running a printer. One of the things that we talk about pretty frequently is that, people are always asking us, “What printer should I choose?” Instead, our answer is, “How much design do you know? How much design and modeling do you know? What do you want to make? Then I can answer your question.” If in fact the school doesn’t even know yet what their students are going to be interested or what classes they’re going to want to incorporate, buying a printer is a little premature.
You have to get started with the modeling and then that second piece comes later. There are many different printers depending on your price range, depending on the type of things that you’re printing, what resolution do you need, how big are the pieces? That is something that having information, I want to have more information on our website that gives some clarity and give some direction if people are interested in purchasing a printer. The learning happens with the 3D modeling, but there is the excitement with the 3D print.
You’re holding it. It’s very exciting.
That’s the thing. We realized that gamifying learning, kids on KiraKira, for every class that they watch and every design they create, they get points. It encourages them to be excited about learning and making. They can click a button and then they can 3D print it. We found that 3D printed tangible reward is a very unique value proposition. It’s something that kids get excited about creating physical products. It is like a part of the loop that we want to offer. We don’t think that it should only be about the 3D modeling, but there is a balance like you said, which is more important. At which stage should you be emphasizing, which piece? It’s been interesting to explore that.
I’m curious as you go through these classes, are you focused on a particular CAD platform or are there various ones that you teach? Can you tell some of that?
Because of my initial work with the University of Virginia, we started with SolidWorks. Some of our initial classes were 60-plus minutes long. As we started doing more research about our audience, we started realizing that in order to combat this drop off in STEM learning amongst girls, we needed to be reaching girls in middle school. Creating 60-plus minute SolidWorks classes was not going to be the avenue that we needed to go.
They don’t have the attention span for that at middle school, girls or boys.
We had some adults that were like, “This is intimidating for me. I am not a middle school girl. I have no idea how my daughter is going to navigate.” We then quickly started working with, when I moved out to San Francisco, Autodesk, who’s been an awesome partner. Something that I love about Autodesk products, as well as there are a lot of other products out there that are free, but all of their products are free for students. We started working with the Tinkercad team, as well as the Fusion 360 team. We started creating classes to introduce girls as we’ve had girls as young as five. We have both boys and girls taking our classes. Although we have a focus on curriculum that’s geared towards young women, but we have a lot of Tinkercad classes that are geared towards the middle school age, 5th through 8th grade.
That’s where the STEM drop off. It’s between 5th and 8th grade, over 80% of girls lose proficiency in math and science. The 5th grade, they’re on par with boys and then something happens in middle school. That’s why we’ve been focused on Tinkercad. It’s such a fun, easy program. The UI/UX is very intuitive. Kids that have no experience dive in and start making cool stuff. They get their confidence up. I think after a certain level, then we encourage the students to start exploring a program like Fusion 360. That’s a better gateway into more sophisticated programs.
I want to make sure that we clarify here. You do have some classes and things that are for even younger kids. You do have a program for young women who are college age or high school, right?
Yes. A lot of our classes speak to a pretty wide age range. We have introductory classes for kids, but we have a fashionista series. We have an organic jewelry design series. We have young women that are in their 30s and 40s that are interested in 3D modeling. They are interested in learning about fashion design, jewelry making and product design that take the classes. We try to have a balance of both gender neutral and also age neutral content. We’re not being exclusive to any one customer.
You’re filling a big gap that we have been talking about for quite some time. We were just debating something about this, but there’s a big gap between learning how to digitally design, which there are a lot of school programs out there. While there still is a gender gap, there’s a growing audience who head into that. You have less and less students heading into that more product and industrial design, that more traditional design fields. There’s not as much work there to be honest with you. It’s a lot harder to find your way and to build a business and to break into that. There’s been this gap between what’s being taught in CAD digital design, what you and we learned at RISD about art and design about building good products, the process of design. That’s actually missing in some of these digital design classes. They had to do engineering and they had to be specific and they don’t talk about what you’re making, how you came up with your idea and design thinking. By the mere fact that you’re providing that, you’re actually filling a gigantic gap in the education system overall.3D print #STEAMeducation focuses on building creativity and #designthinking. @hp @zbyhp Click To Tweet
I feel like there’s been this trend more in education to more project-based learning and a focus on the importance of innovation, the importance of design thinking. Classes are so much different now than my parents’ and their parents’. We have a science class, we have a math class, we didn’t have engineering class. We didn’t have programming. We didn’t have the range of robotics classes that I see in schools, both private and public schools now. I feel like a program having some more content though that’s geared towards young women is something that we still see a lot of boys getting excited about these classes, but not as much the girls. Having some content that’s encouraging girls in the design thinking process. Also, ultimately I think entrepreneurship is something that’s tied to this that we’re teaching kids how to make their own products. There could certainly be more targeted education for empowering young women to become entrepreneurs and thinking about that from an early age.
We’ve been discussing some of this. Our daughter who is on her second grade, came home with this document from school, which she had drawn and written on. It said, “Growth mindset versus fixed mindset.” It goes into all of these various things about the different mindsets like if you’re in a fixed mindset, you’re afraid to fail. If you’re in a growth mindset, failure is an opportunity to learn. I literally fell off my chair when I saw it. I go to the teacher and I said, “Who did this? Who put this in the program? Did you do this?” She looked like I was going to be one of those parents who was going to flip a lid over it, instead I was excited. She was like, “No, this is a district wide mandate.” We’re in the Irvine Unified School District here in Southern California. I was like, “I totally want to meet the person who decided that this was a good idea because it’s a great idea.” Now, we have to also add into that though design process and design thinking, just like we learned the scientific process. It’s like hypothesis to testing. Art is missing in our school district and in school districts across the country, it’s a missing link where there aren’t right teachers and mix of people to push for it, for people to understand, for administrators to understand it’s necessary. We from the outside have to do a little bit more pushing to get that through.
It’s like you said, art has been losing its footing a little bit in certain school districts. I think in terms of funding, it’s one of the programs that gets cut. When you think about the bigger picture of design thinking, creativity, art and design are so much a part of the whole STEAM versus STEM. As long as schools are approaching it in the right way, it’s not just art class. It’s design class. It’s design thinking. If I had access to 3D printers and 3D modeling at a younger age, it’s exciting and to see what kids are creating with a little bit of encouragement. It’s like you said, empowering them to fail and getting that mindset of failing fast, failing forward. The more you fail, the more opportunity you have to not fail. It’s different from the way we were taught, which was always to avoid failure. It’s remarkable how things are changing.
That’s a great thing. One of the early lectures I ever gave in the 3D printing industry a couple of years ago was a talk called Makers Making Profits. It’s the idea that you actually had to think about the pricing of your product that you’ve designed when you started making it, instead of it being this, “Everybody loves this. I’ll sell it for $20.” That’s not how it works in the consumer product world. Let me give you a little bit of insight into thinking about your pricing structure and having value for the design you did, for the work you’ve done. There’s a value in that. It’s flipping that thinking on its head was this big a-ha moment that, “Makers might want to make some money out of this.”
That real world tie is important and not only in terms of pricing and stuff like that. That’s something that teachers see the value of 3D modeling is important, but then the actual 3D printing and making a physical product is valuable in terms of thinking about this product in real life, “How much is it going to cost to make? How big is it like if it’s a box? Does the lid work?” It’s all of the functionality aspects that I think are often lost in curricula and that piece of incorporating into real life. I feel that it’s this special thing about 3D printing and instant prototyping that kids can make things and see them immediately.
You see the potential of what’s the next, “Do I want to make it a business? Do I want to give them to all my friends? What is next?” Once you sold it in your hand, it has a lot more tangibleness than it does when it’s sitting there in the computer.
You get to play with it and you get to see, “It’s broken. This doesn’t really work. I was wrong. I thought that this piece would fit perfectly but let me iterate, let me change a little bit,” but so much happens, so much of the design thinking process culminates in that 3D print. I do think if a school can afford to have a 3D printer, it’s worth having even the less expensive one that just does a rough prototype. It’s an exciting moment for the learning process.
It’s also exciting what you’re doing, getting more girls intentionally into these disciplines. When I was at RISD in the industrial design department, I probably could count the number of women in the program on the fingers of one hand. I think that’s a real problem when the majority of consumer products are actually influenced or purchased by women. I would like to see those numbers change. I know they’ve changed since then somewhat, but it’s still not enough.
You would think that it would have changed more in the past few years. I know Melinda Gates spoke about at least for computer programming that this gender discrepancy became more apparent. She said around the early ‘90s, when this whole culture of the nerds started happening and games became less gender neutral. They’re more focused on guns, tanks and stuff like that. There’s something that’s happened that is impacting the decisions that girls make when they’re in middle school and high school. Their interest level and pursuing things like in 3D modeling, specifically animation or 3D modeling, learning 3D modeling skills and engineering ultimately. I feel if more people are focused on creating a solution, there is a huge audience for this. That’s something that as a female founder I’ve run into sometimes skeptical. Boys are the low-hanging fruit. They’re already into this stuff, “Why aren’t you creating a product geared towards boys? It would just be more successful. You would have a wider audience right off the bat.” I was like, “That’s the easy thing to do.”
In our prep talk, when we were going back and forth on it and we’re talking about what we were going to discuss, it was mentioned that do we need to have boys not feel left out? What are the thoughts on that? Do we need more male teachers for lessons? I absolutely think you should have diverse teachers, male and female. That’s always a good thing because some daughters look up to their dads, “He’s my business role model and there isn’t someone I would rather learn from than him.” Having that is a great mix. It also helps with making sure that you’re filling all the skill basis, but of course still making the curriculum very relevant to the girls that are being taught. The problem that I thought about was I’m not big on exclusionary things either. When we have a shift of balance happen, that’s what could happen to you.
If you were to mix your curriculum and then over time, you head into where there’s deeper interest or it starts to overpower and the balance becomes more boys and less female. Now, you have a balance issue. Unless you’re going to control that from a management, how you’re building it and how you’re structuring the curriculum and not allowing an imbalance to happen at any time, that could be dangerous. We see that shift happen all the time. We used to give a talk about gender blending design. How do you get design that’s not pink and shrunk, but is a value to women and doesn’t offend men? How do you get that balance going when you’re going to be making something in the mass market? That’s what we do. The biggest problem was it wasn’t much that the design ideas weren’t there, that good products ideas weren’t there, they were getting killed by a team that was out of balance.
The gatekeepers had nothing to do, no relationship with and no real understanding of who the consumer was.
The team within itself was self-silencing. The women within the group, because they were so out of balance, it was like one or two, if you were lucky. Why would they point out that they were women in this group of a very male-dominated engineering or product design group? It got to the point at which those ideas didn’t come to the surface. That’s what can happen when you have a curriculum that’s built by students or we see it happening when we look at the Thingiverse libraries and things like that. There’s a reason so much of that is unappealing. It makes actually 3D printing seem not marketable. It’s because it’s not done by a good mix of gender and ages. It’s not done in that blended way.
I feel like something that we’re working on is to have a curated STL library that is more art and design focused. It’s where students can download open source, have access to STLs that speak to modern architecture or organic patterns, something that’s an alternative. You look at other STL libraries and it’s like dead zombies a lot and guns or whatever. That’s not what 3D printing is about. It could be a lot more diversity. To speak to your point having male instructors, I think there is something also to thinking about diversity beyond just gender. We should have male teachers. That’s something that we are working with some male designers right now, but also like you said, diversity of thought. It’s having a whole array of technical backgrounds, animators, architects, mechanical engineers, aerospace engineers. There are many different disciplines. To have the more variety that we have, the richer the content will be.
I also would like to suggest to you as a thought that maybe bringing in also some non-tech classes. By that I mean things like there are lots of non-tech jobs that are coming up in tech companies. We talked with a couple of people over a few podcasts about this, but there are a lot of non-tech support jobs like sales jobs, market research jobs, various parts that are critical to tech organizations. You want them to have a good tech understanding, but exposure to those other things maybe aren’t there as well. Having some of those in the mix as well might build that moderate entrepreneurial spirit and help other startups in the future.
I agree with that, that would be awesome. I hope that as we grow, we can offer a lot of different types of curricula and support, even in the space of the blog. Connecting different professionals to the younger generation to get them inspired. For us, it’s almost an equal part to the free online classes that we have is the community. The connect page where design leaders can create profiles and then younger designers can create profiles. We’re working on the backend right now to allow them to network and communicate with each other directly through the website. It’s messaging within KiraKira.
You’re sponsored by Intel and Autodesk. What is your big challenge moving forward into getting more classes and getting more teachers?
The biggest challenge is getting word out there. Promoting the classes, we will continue to grow as long as our community of students grows and our community of content creators. Getting the word out there, both to recruit new talent, to make classes and then to get kids online on the program learning. That’s why it means so much to be able to speak with both of you and talk about KiraKira and our mission. We’re very mission-driven. It’s to get girls to try taking the classes and then see all of the cool things that they can make. It’s to spark that creativity and excitement, and then everything else follows after that.
I’m excited about your mission. I’m glad to learn that your site exists. It’s going to be great for my girls as they grow. We’ve been getting one who was old enough to throw her into the pool, try and help her swim a bit, but there’s a whole lot more to it than that. I think having some real curriculum established that they can relate to is going to make a huge difference.
It solves a challenge that a lot of parents have and that you found over time. We have an interest in it. We have 3D printers running here in the house and in our office. She sees them and she’s interested in making things, but we don’t always have the time to sit down at the computer, teach her things and teach her what she needs to know. She’s not yet at a self-sufficient way of running the CAD or modeling in any way. She can’t completely run it without supervision or assistance, but being able to get her into your program, start looking through that and finding places for herself there, that’s ideal because it helps us. We’re there to answer questions, but we don’t have to find the extra time that we maybe don’t have in a busy weekend or evening.3D printers in schools provide a tangible and exciting experience in the learning process. @hp @zbyhp Click To Tweet
It’s setting her down if she wants to explore. You can sort by skill level, but you can look at the classes and see beginner Tinkercad. Some of the beginner Tinkercad classes that are less than five minutes, you can make a little cactus planter. It’s a two-minute class, which obviously will take them a little bit longer, but watching the class then going into Tinkercad, watching it again, making it, those short classes, so it doesn’t get boring. It might sound crazy that we’re doing classes that are that short. For newbies, you need to keep it super short and easy.
It’s a quick reward too.
That’s what 3D printing is supposed to be.
Except that’s the misnomer that it’s instant. It’s not Star Trek here. It does take time to print them.
They’re having fun when they’re watching it print. At least there’s some amount of that when they do get to see it.
We hope we can get the word out. We’ll have, Lannea, run through one of your classes and we’ll do a video as well.
I’ll email you and make some suggestions for fun ones.
In that way, we can help spread the word. This is critically important to us as parents of three girls, two that are young and one that’s older. This is interesting when you’ve got this age demographic. I was thinking about it. Our daughter, Alexandra, who is a pastry chef and she’s been working hard and studying there. She’s expressed interest in some of these sugar 3D printers or chocolate ones. She studied Nutrition, Health and Wellness in college. She didn’t study 3D modeling and engineering. She didn’t study any of that. It’s pretty daunting to go, “I love the idea of this. If I were to have my own catering service or my own bakery, I could do this, but where the heck am I going to learn this and then have it not take forever for me to learn it?” You offer that opportunity for her as well. That’s going to open a lot of doors.
We thought about it. We had a lot of people say, “You should be charging for the classes.” We’re very adamant. We believe that democracy of access, everybody should be able to access the classes, watch them and learn. That’s not something we ever want to be profiting from. There should be no stumbling block, no hurdles to learning. Hopefully people can start learning, take classes and then maybe they might want to make their own classes and upload them. That’s the goal.
Thank you so much for joining us, Suz. We appreciate it.
This was fun. I love speaking with you and I will reach out soon with some classes for your daughters.
Thank you so much. That’s fantastic.
Igniting Girls STEAM Education with 3D Digital Design to Print — Final Thoughts
Every time we have another interview, I keep thinking, “One of these is going to be a dog. One of these is going to be boring.” We do many interviews. I get surprised more often than not, that was a lot more fun than I expected it to be.
It’s not even about fun though. Before when we were interviewing people and it was early in the podcast, we were learning. We didn’t have as much capability to help. We were helping through publicizing and making this information out there and getting those things but we didn’t have the circulation that we have right now. I’m amazed at how many downloads we have of every episode here. The audience reading, it keeps us going and gets us excited, but here we also now have tons of people to network her with. She said that her biggest challenge was getting the word out. We can help do that now. I feel empowered and capable of doing that. This podcast has given us the capability. That makes me proud and excited because now, every time we have a conversation, we’re making new connections. We’re getting people to know each other within the 3D print industry. With that, we’re creating a network of power to be able to help 3D printing grow the right way.
That’s the whole point, we believe in this industry. We want to have it move forward in the right way. We have our vision for what we think that means. Not everybody agrees with us, I know and that’s fine. There’s enough room for all of us in this industry, but it’s such a fun thing to be a part of and to be able to help an organization like this.
This is the thing, I know we’re going to get a lot of criticism back and forth about the whole male and female, gender splitting. It’s whether or not you should have co-learning environments and all of this, but we have three daughters.
I’m outnumbered severely.
We have three daughters and there is this drop off that happens when the environment gets too male-dominated, too aggressive or oriented towards things that interest them. Our daughter’s teacher had this great a-ha moment with her in a parent-teacher conference. She came back and said, “Lannea whipped through this project. It was completely amazing.” Sometimes I have to push her hard to get her finish her project. I sat down and I asked her, “Why did you finish this one so quickly? Why were you so into it?” She said, “Because I liked it.” When we can give kids, girls, especially when they’re outnumbered in a lot of the curriculum in terms of things that interest them, we can give them something that does interest them. It ignites that fire for that project. Do we care what kind of environment it came in a single-gender only environment or not? I don’t care. If it gets my daughter working on STEAM, if I had a son working on STEAM, I would be thrilled at whatever method that happened.With #GirlsSTEAM education, we can excite girls to view engineering and #industrialarts as viable career paths for them to explore. @hp @zbyhp Click To Tweet
Certainly, KiraKira.com is focused on girls and women learning CAD, because they’re very underserved. A lot of the tech industry is wrongfully so skewed against women learning.
I don’t want to say against, it’s just skewed away. It’s not like they did it on purpose.
I’m not placing blame. I don’t think it is offensive to say it’s skewed against women or maybe a better way to say is it’s male-dominated. It’s another way to say it. That’s the reality of it. That was always true, even in art school, which we went to for college. Even my department, which was an art design discipline, industrial design was dominated by men as well. It had to be 90% men in my class probably or close to it. Whether you are a girl or a woman, have a daughter or someone that would be able to immediately take advantage of these classes on KiraKira.com for who they’re intended for or not, one thing as makers in this world, it’s calling all makers, calling all designers, calling all engineers, anybody who is involved in this 3D printing industry, whether it’s in a casual way or in a serious professional way, here’s the reality of America.
I know we have audience in other countries. Forgive me if this doesn’t apply to you. I’m not going to claim to know the cultures and dynamics of what’s going on in other countries. In the United States of America, the vast majority of anything that is consumed bought by people in this country is bought or influenced by women. Eighty-six-plus percent of purchases are bought or influenced by women. Whether you are a woman or not, you better get to know and understand them. That’s the path to business success, at least in retail America. I know some readers are going to say, “I’m in a commercial field, I’m business-to-business.” It’s like Honeywell that we interviewed with the aerospace stuff. I’m sure there are legitimately a lot of companies out there that their profitability and livelihoods do not in any way depend on what women think about, care or buy. That’s valid. If you are in any way involved in retail America or in B2C, Business-to-Consumer type of business, you’ve got to understand women or have people on your staff working for you who do. You need to encourage and foster that understanding in order to succeed.
I want to tell a story about my dad. I knew this. My dad worked for a very large engineering and construction company called Fluor Corporation. They were bought out or merged at one point and they were called Fluor Daniel, which I still think what they might be called now. He worked there for most of his career. Very early on, he developed a project manager training program that was focused on bringing women into the project management system, that they didn’t have enough female project managers. He felt that was a great miss in the program. When he wanted to bring more in, they didn’t have the access to the education required or the mentorship that was required to get through and become that in a normal course of business and school.
He set out to develop a program. They involved every department within the company from accounting to sales, to engineering and every single part of it. They sought out and got each department head to recommend a woman in their department who would be eligible for the program. He also got them all to agree to do portions of the training over the course of it. It was a many week course. There would be some class and then you would have some project, mentorship training or some project that you worked on for a period of time. They would go through that. At the end, they would not only be great project managers, but they would be cross-trained in all the different departments and networked into all the people within those departments, which he felt very strongly that the women did extremely well. They built relationships really well there.
He and a woman who is still doing this over 20 or 30 years later almost, because he started when I was in high school. Over 30 years later, they’re still doing this. Brenda facilitates this program and still makes it happen within their organization. To me that says a lot, when you have a big, very male-dominated field like oil and gas, you can’t get bigger than that. They have to work still hard today to equalize. They have a program and invested in it year-after-year because they see the value of it. What does that say? The biggest thing that he said to me personally, “I have daughters. They didn’t choose to go into my industry, but that doesn’t mean that those other women aren’t someone else’s daughter and I ought to do something for them.”
Certainly, knowing your dad, that makes a lot of sense. Actually, what that shows is that even if you have a B2B company, which Fluor definitely is, they’re building oil refineries and you don’t get much more B2B than that, they recognize that the value in helping women be more involved in what they’re doing as a company. Anybody who’s involved in making or creating any kind of product, if it’s going to sell well for the majority of products out there with few exceptions, it’s got to appeal to women. You’ve got to get very comfortable with trying to, I’m not saying you ever will completely, because women are a great black hole of a mystery in many ways, but you’ve got to do your best to try to understand what makes them tick. What makes them buy? Why are they going to buy them? What would they would appeal to? Even if you’re not going to take any of these courses or you’re not an appropriate person who would take a course at KiraKira.com, go scope them out. They’re free. You can check them out and you might learn a thing or two.
I’ve gotten involved in an organization that is trying to match me personally. They came to me because I was a woman to be on boards of directors, boards of advisors for companies. They’re not completely startups, but some that are funded and beyond startup. They’re looking to match that up. They want women and designers actually. They want both because it has a lot of value for what they’ve profiled and they’ve studied. They’ve figured out that those two things add tremendous value to the mix on your board. Lots of boards are being asked to have gender diversity. I was sitting here thinking and racking my brain, “Have we ever interviewed a female CEO of a 3D print company?” I know we’ve interviewed women, artists, designers and women who have worked high up in the company.
We’ve interviewed 1 or 2 women as a founder of an organization. It may not be a big corporation. What about Deborah Wilcox? She has this retail store chain in Colorado that sells 3D printing. I don’t know if she’s CEO, maybe that’s her title but she’s the owner. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t seek out more. We should.
That says a lot. If the only one we can think of is Debra Wilcox, in all the time that we’ve been doing interviews, this is the next one that’s a CEO, founder level. The 3D print industry itself is skewed. We’ve got to do something about that.
That’s something that’s going to be generational and evolutionary. The way to make that happen is what we’re doing. Educating our kids and all the people who are reading to this, who are involved in education, any which way I look, don’t get me wrong. I’m a guy. I like being a guy. I’m not saying leave guys behind. That’s not the point at all.
Let’s catch women up, if that’s the case, if they’re behind.
It makes everyone stronger. That’s why I love working with you because we make a much better team doing things together than I would be as a designer or a business person on my own. Thanks so much for reading, everybody. We’ll look forward to talking to you again next time.
This has been Tom and Tracy on the WTFFF 3D Printing Podcast.
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