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Sunnyvale Library and CMS team up to bring STEM to girls

003To help increase young women’s interest in STEM subjects, the Sunnyvale Public Library decided to bring its Make-HER hands-on STEM learning program for women and girls to Columbia Middle School this fall for a special 5-week after school program.

The program was geared toward eighth-grade girls. An average of 14 girls a week attended the series of workshops, which began Oct. 20 and ended Nov. 17.

Girls learned how a 3D printer works, and how to use TinkerCAD, a free computer program used for creating digital designs that are ready to be printed into physical objects via a 3D printer. Girls designed and printed their own personal charm, a design with a moving piece, and a Dia de los010Muertos skull using glow-in-the-dark filament. The girls also documented each step in their designs in their maker journals.

“By taking students on a 3D printing CAD journey at their school, it made the programming so much more accessible to students who otherwise may not have transportation or parents able to quickly sign them up online for library workshops,” said Corinne O. Takara, Sunnyvale Make-HER programming instructor. “It is important for these girls to have this opportunity so that they can build a confidence in themselves as creative engineers with growing math and science skills.”

Takara is encouraging her students to continue to use the skills they just learned by entering the Future Engineers Design Mars Medical Challenge, which asks K-12 students to create a digital 3D model of a medical or dental object that could be used by an astronaut on a three-year mission to the red planet.

013“By learning TinkerCAD and potentially entering the Mars Medical Challenge, these girls can feel a part of a larger community of makers and dreamers about space,” Takara said. “It is important for youth to see themselves as empowered creative makers and problem solvers rather than merely as passive consumers. I believe such a perspective gives youth resilience and the ability to tackle hurdles in all aspects of their lives.”

Nancy Andrus, youth services librarian and Make-HER supporter, said she is amazed by the progress the girls have made in these workshops.

“The girls had no experience in TinkerCAD and tackled some challenging content,” Andrus said. “On the first day, they were just learning to move forms to a virtual platform and keep items from floating in space. We had a few print jobs in that first week that did not turn out as planned. By the third session, girls were troubleshooting their designs and creating objects with movable parts. This is a group of really smart, creative, persistent girls!”

CMS math and robotics teacher, Alexi Badaoui, said it is not enough to hear about 3D printing or to see it in action on a movie, or on a video on the internet.

“It is the real life experience, hands on, that awakens the intellectual curiosity and gives students the real feeling of ‘I can do this’,” Badaoui said. “It has been a great pleasure to see how engaged and excited students are while working and learning about the techniques of the computer assisted design, and then seeing, touching and handling their creations and wanting to learn more! I cannot thank Corinne and Nancy enough for their knowledgeable, professional, welcoming and warm role models they have been for our kids during these sessions.”

The CMS after school Make-HER program will continue with winter and spring series open to girls in grades 6 – 8.

For more information on the Sunnyvale MakeHER program visit https://sunnyvalemakeher.wordpress.com/.

Article by Alia Wilson, District Communications Coordinator.