MakerGirl prepares for road trip to rural Midwest
For the second summer in a row, MakerGirl is hitting the road to bring STEM education to young girls.
MakerGirl, a nonprofit organization at the University of Illinois, encourages young girls to pursue STEM through 3D printing learning sessions.
Sona Kaul, senior in IE, has been involved in MakerGirl since its inception in 2014. Over the past two and a half years, she has seen it grow into a larger, more sustainable organization.
Last summer, MakerGirl embarked on an eight-week road trip across the country, bringing 3D printing sessions to girls aged 7 to 10. They visited 17 states and reached over 1,000 girls.
The team will hit the road again this summer, but this time they’ll be focusing on reaching girls in the rural Midwest.
“We’re finding that a lot of people who grow up in rural areas, there’s the correlation with lower income, so they have less resources for extracurricular activities that focus toward STEM,” Kaul says. “A lot of these people had never even seen a 3D printer, never even heard of one. We’re not only teaching them how to use one, we’re actually introducing the concept for it.”
Kaul says they received a lot of positive feedback last year, especially from rural families and girls.
“The kids loved it, we had some really great feedback, especially from the rural areas,” she says. “Those really are the places that we were targeting and those are the places that need the most help in that area. Those are the girls and the parents that were most grateful that we came and were able to talk to them.”
When they visited Fayetteville, Arkansas, the city’s mayor was so excited to host them that he declared the day they visited as an official holiday.
As finance director for MakerGirl, Kaul has been involved in soliciting sponsorships and funding for last year’s and this year’s road trips.
She says the experience has allowed her to pursue her interests in finance and economics.
“I would say I spent more time on MakerGirl than anything in college,” she says. “I learned a lot about funding and taxes, and really just the backbone of how to run a startup financially.”
Kaul says the experience gave her a leg up for her future career. After graduation, she will begin a rotational program at Jump Trading in Chicago.
Being with MakerGirl from the beginning has allowed Kaul to see the organization grow.
“I think that MakerGirl is off to a great start," she says. “We started out with just six of us. Now we have over 30 people.”
After this year’s road trip, the organization’s goal is to expand and create MakerGirl chapters at other universities across the United States.
“That’s the main thing I’m excited to see MakerGirl do,” Kaul says. “I think through expanding to other universities in the future, we’ll be able to impact more girls in all these different places.”