Dec 29, 2015 | By Alec

Though the education sector is increasingly realizing what 3D printing could do for children, several startups are already working very hard to introduce children to 3D printers to give them a head start in preparing for their future careers. One of them is the San Francisco-based Savvy Society, which has found a very remarkable way to reach out to young girls. Instead of focusing on numbers or robots, Savvy Society is introducing girls to STEM and 3D printing through a focus on creativity, fashion and fun, with the help of customizable shoes featuring unique 3D printed accessories.

This remarkable approach was developed by Alexa Fleischman and Lauren Wallace, graduates from Boston College and Babson respectively, who are doing all they can to give girls a head start in STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, fields which are known for primarily attracting boys. With their San Francisco startup, which launched last fall, they are trying to prove to girls that STEM isn’t nerdy, boring or just for boys.

As Fleishman recently explained in an interview, she knows exactly why girls aren’t very interested in STEM when they’re young. “I wanted nothing to do with STEM as a child. That was totally my brother's thing - he was even the president of the Robotics club. However, everything changed when tech-giant EMC recruited me out of college. To my surprise, I instantly fell in love with engineering and technology,” she says. The problem was that, as a girl, she always avoided exposure to and education in STEM and – like Wallace – found herself studying at night to work during the day. “Together, we had the conviction to overcome steep learning curves and became fiercely determined to make it easier for the next generation of girls to succeed in STEM,” she says.

And that is exactly what Savvy Society is supposed to do. They have developed an online education platform that exposes girls to magic of STEM and 3D printing. “Girls enter our digital Style Lab where they're taught to create custom fashion accessories called Savvy Swirls, which interchangeably attach to Savvy Shoes. Through the design process, girls develop concrete CAD skills that prepare them for a future in STEM,” she explains. Through a partnership with Autodesk, girls can even use TinkerCAD software for free, while Savvy Society provides numerous tutorials on their YouTube channel, enabling complete beginners to get to grips with the basics of 3D printing and feel the magic.

Right now, Savvy Society even has a pop-up shop in San Francisco, where girls can learn the basics of CAD design and immediately create 3D printed shoe accessories that they can proudly wear. Girls can also submit designs to the Savvy Society website, which chooses three to take into production each month. In the near future, girls will also be able to order a 3D print of whatever they design.

But as was the case with many of us with LEGOs, the hope is that this exposure to STEM concepts and 3D printing will also encourage girls to seek a career in those areas in the future. “When I look back, I never saw myself with a career in tech, product and definitely not engineering,” Fleischman told reporters. “I ended up there by luck. And now, I want to make sure it isn’t luck for the next generation of women. Technology and engineering is something they should want to do. Girls believe that STEM isn’t something you do for fun: You have to do it in the classroom; it’s for boys; you’re not good at it. There’s a huge lack of confidence among girls.”

In this particular case, 3D printing is thus just a medium for getting kids excited for STEM, for which they could have chosen a number of other tools too. “We chose to focus on 3D printing because it will be the most disruptive technology in the next decade,” Fleischman explained their choice. “Encouraging girls to learn coding is such a focus, but 3D printing is the Wild, Wild West. It’s new for everyone. So we can make sure girls are at the forefront of this cutting-edge technology.” But with 3D printing reaching more and more sectors in just about every industry, a basic understanding of the technology could give kids a huge head start over the rest of their generation. “Girls can have confidence to look back and say, ‘I’ve been using CAD to design my own shoes since I was 6. I can do this,’” Wallace added.

 

 

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