Printing tomorrow's change-makers in STEM: MakerGirl prepares for cross-county trip


Colleen Dempsey | The Daily Illi

Addy Timmins works on the computer at BIF on September 14, 2015 as part of the MakerGirl program.

By Robin Dean

CHEight weeks. Twelve cities. One mobile unit. What started off as a project for a business course has evolved into an organization ready to impact the nation by empowering young girls to pursue a passion in STEM fields.

This summer, MakerGirl has decided to take its 3-D printers on wheels and travel to various rural communities in order to expose the STEM fields to girls who lacked the opportunity otherwise.

The group will start in New York and end in Washington.

“We hope to bring these 3-D printers, these resources, these things we have been blessed with on the U of I campus to so many communities around the U.S. and use them to empower more women,” said Annie Guo, cHsenior in Business and member of the MakerGirl team.

MakerGirl is a nonprofit organization that was founded at the University in 2014 with the purpose of promoting gender equality within the STEM fields. Through 3-D printing sessions, they hope to fuel the passion of young girls and inspire them to be the catalyst for change.

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    “I think that us encouraging these girls to be tomorrow’s change makers is really important because instilling that within them at this age can really make an impact,” said Lauren Wenig, CHjunior in Media and marketing director of MakerGirl. “It lets them believe that they really can do these great things.”

    Since their pilot session in December 2014, MakerGirl has become a 501(c)(3) accredited non-profit organization that has hosted more than 55 sessions with over 470 participants, some of which have been held in southern Illinois and Chicago.

    “(MakerGirl) has definitely grown in size. We have held a lot more sessions and have even gotten a lot more involved with the University and other big companies,” Wenig said. “Every member is really devoted to MakerGirl and that has made it into what it is today.”

    In addition to this success, MakerGirl has also gotten the opportunity to collaborate with other organizations such as Girl Scouts, Camp Kesem and Big Brothers Big Sisters, in order to show how applicable the STEM fields can be. With these additions, they aim to make each session engaging and highly interactive in order to cultivate the eagerness and ambition of those that attend.

    “I think a good thing about MakerGirl is that we don’t just introduce them to STEM, but we encourage them and give them the mentality that they can do it,” said Kendall Furbee, freshman in Engineering and internal marketing manager of MakerGirl. “I think a lot of girls don’t have that kind of support in their households or the environments that they are in, which is something really important to have.”

    With the new mobile program they are implementing this summer, the organization is hoping to continue to enlarge their success.

    “I think that if people see how easy it is for the truck to go across the United States, they will start to understand that (institutionalized gender norms within STEM) is something that can be changed,” Guo said. “Hopefully after people see our legitimacy, they will be more willing to invest in 3-D printers and hold sessions of their own.”

    As a campus-originated organization, MakerGirl prides itself in being a regional sensation that fights against the homogeneity of the STEM fields in order to provide more opportunities for women.

    “We are doing something that not a lot of students have had the opportunity to do,” Wenig said. “MakerGirl makes me feel like I’m actually making a difference.”

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