MakerGirl hitting the road again to show girls the world of 3-D printing

MakerGirl hitting the road again to show girls the world of 3-D printing

CHAMPAIGN — According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, women hold only 24 percent of science, technology, engineering and math jobs.

Some University of Illinois students are trying to improve that STEM statistic.

They started MakerGirl, which hosts 3-D printing sessions for girls to introduce them to computers and technology.

Last year, they took MakerGirl on the road, holding 61 sessions in 44 cities across 17 states.

They're back this summer. After launching a Kickstarter campaign, in which they successfully raised $15,161 from 250 backers, MakerGirl will be traveling around the Midwest.

"We want to have a stronger presence here in our area," said Manisha Singh, managing director for MakerGirl.

"We're excited to be staying closer to home, building stronger relationships here in the Midwest."

The Midwest road trip kicks off in a few days and will begin in the Champaign-Urbana area, then move to the Chicago suburbs, Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas.

During the sessions, the girls design something with a simple, drag-and-drop website, and then get to see it 3-D printed.

All of MakerGirl's 3-D printers and its van were donated, covering most of its costs, Singh said.

By staying closer to home, MakerGirl can spend less time traveling and more time teaching girls.

This summer, MakerGirl hopes to teach 1,000 girls about 3-D printing, Singh said.

They hope to see some of the same girls they worked with last year.

"We'll be visiting a lot of the same places again and see how those girls have progressed," Singh said.

The MakerGirl team learned a lot, too.

"There's such a variety of people in our country, all coming from different backgrounds," Singh said. "Some barely have access to technology and computers.

"It was eye-opening to see the variety of people we came across. A lot of us from the (San Francisco) Bay Area grew up going to these camps and were surprised at the lack of exposure other kids have."

Singh hopes the 3-D printing sessions can inspire some girls to continue learning about technology.

"That was the inspiration for MakerGirl, just to bridge the gender gap, both in classrooms and in the workplace," she said.