Design Camp Teaches Girls Fashion, Engineering and 3D Printing
Editor’s note: As veteran readers of this site know, GoodCall® tracks gender parity and pay gaps in many fields, as well as how to keep girls interested in STEM careers. Today, writer Terri Williams studies how one program offers a design camp that makes an effort to keep STEM topics fun and practical.
Gender parity in the most in-demand disciplines remains an elusive goal. While women make up half of all law school attendees, the numbers are not as encouraging in STEM fields – especially engineering. There are a few bright spots, for example, last year, Dartmouth University made history by graduating more female than male engineers. Carnegie Mellon University’s Girls of Steel is a highly-competitive all-female robotics team. And recently, Rochester Institute of Technology’s all female team took first place in electric vehicles in the Formula Hybrid engineering competition.
But these examples are exceptions to the rule. Research shows that although they’re interested in STEM during middle school, girls lose interest in STEM subjects by the age of 15. While there are a variety of complex reasons, it appears that a lack of exposure, and a lack of female role models and peers are some of the contributing factors in this sharp decline in interest.
San Francisco-based startup KiraKira’s approach to engaging girls is to make STEM topics fun and practical. The company combines fashion design, engineering, and 3D printing for an experience that stimulates and educates young minds. KiraKira offers summer design camps and popup studios. The company is also working on custom lesson plans for educators to use in their classrooms.
From STEM to STEAM
Suz Somerall, founder of KiraKira, tells GoodCall® that these events and activities are at the intersection of STEM and design. “We’re focused on STEAM – teaching kids and trying to get young women excited about learning art and design.” The company offers projects for both girls and boys, but Somerall realizes the crucial need to increase the number of girls in these disciplines.
This year’s summer design camp runs from June 12 through Aug. 8, and there are 8 different sessions, covering subjects ranging from jewelry design to fashion design to industrial design. Each session lasts for one week, and participants learn to sketch and conceive ideas, 3D model and print their 3D creations.
“Students learn basic math and engineering, and tech skills involved in 3D printing and using engineering software like Autodesk,” Somerall says. “They start with Tinkercad and then graduate to using more sophisticated software like Fusion 360 and Maya.
The design camp partners
Sarah O’Rourke is the youth audience strategist for Autodesk. She tells GoodCall® that her company started working with KiraKira over a year ago. “We were drawn to their mission and vison of inspiring young girls to get into STEM disciplines through fashion and design.”
O’Rourke says design is a part of Autodesk’s DNA. “Anytime we can work with partners that are showing kids – and anyone – how things are made and fabricated, we will embrace that opportunity.” O’Rourke explains that Tinkercad is a 3D-based design tool it offers for free as a part of its education tools; in fact, 4 years ago, Autodesk made an investment to offer all of its software for free to students, educators and education projects. “We believe that giving access to these tools really helps inspire users to take the STEM disciplines and add the art element (STEAM) through design to helps to anchor these topics.”
Other KiraKira pop-up partners include HP and True Ventures. In addition, Amour Vert, a sustainable fashion brand, has partnered with KiraKira to produce “fashioner” courses inspired by the famous nautical designs and organic styles of the company.
In addition to developing the types of innovative skills needed to become architects, designers, and other types of innovators, Somerall adds that the girls attending design camp also get a taste of entrepreneurship. KiraKira designers can sell their products on the company’s website. Beyond basic fashion items, students can also make and sell sunglasses, skateboards, iPhone cases, household item such as lamps – the sky is the limit. And that’s the point.