The Power of Peer Mentoring through Making

by Danielle Young | 08/28/2018

Danielle Young is the Director of Programs for the O’ahu-based non-profit organization, ImagineWorks and aspiring student studying mechanical engineering at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa. As an alumna of various STEM programs, she loves to give back to her local community by mentoring young competing robotics teams, encouraging increased participation and diversity in STEM fields, and volunteering at educational outreach events/programs.

Danielle Young

I began to involve myself in the “Making Culture” during freshman year of high school when I got involved with FIRST Robotics. Through this, I got experience in welding and power tools to fabricate 120 lb robots. In my junior year, I enrolled in an engineering class under the teacher who led the robotics program. I went into the class expecting it to be similar to the welcoming and challenging robotics team. Initially, I was wrong.

After a couple weeks into the class, I expressed that I felt like I didn’t belong in the class and I was at a setback in knowledge. My teacher bluntly said it was because of my gender. I endured the small groups where my voice didn’t have as much weight as the others throughout the builds of our projects. It wasn’t until the entire class collaborated on a 20’ Geiger dome (we made an Instructable too), and everyone was hands on, that I began to feel like my knowledge and experience had weight. We had to teach each other how to cut the wood, splice ropes, and use teamwork to assemble the large structure. We broke into teams which rotated, learning from each other.

I later realized withstanding the quarter alone with basically an all-boys class was something that other girls would have to endure, and expected similar experiences in college. In the following years, with the help of National Center for Women & Information Technology grants, we were able to run one-week coding/STEM workshops for elementary/middle school girls, and increase female participation on the robotics team from ~ ten percent to fifty percent. I later decided to major in an engineering field when I graduated high school and witnessed previous students continuing to participate in STEM-related programs as a mentor.

Introducing CAD software to students in the MakeMobile, currently parked at Kalani High School

Our non-profit, ImagineWorks (IW) was established and after a couple years of college, the initial drive for running the non-profit slowed. With no prior experience in running a non-profit, the milestones in our vision began to feel daunting and far-fetched. Could a board group of recent high school and college graduates handle the goals we set forth for ourselves?

Attending CrossRoads provided plentiful direction, information, and inspiration. Surrounded by seasoned teachers, policymakers, and other professionals was pretty intimidating in the beginning, but participating in the different sessions, engaging in workshops and even telling stories over bonfires gave me a sense of encouragement for what ImagineWorks and I are aspiring to do. From my perspective as a student, being able to receive advice and the “blood, sweat, and tears” stories that we aren’t always aware of was invaluable. This new perspective was the refresher and embrace that invigorated me to continue progressing our efforts with ImagineWorks.

With plans to further cultivate our mobile makerspace and programs for our local communities, I am truly grateful to Infosys Foundation USA for the opportunity to attend such an empowering conference and providing a fantastic outlet to celebrate and engage in the maker movement.

A couple of girls taught during one of the girl-exclusive workshops, with their drawing of a goldfish created with code in the Make Art Program from the Kano Coding kit
One of the girls from one of the girl-exclusive workshops, learning how to use a Teensy board to make a touch-sensitive musical painting
One of the girls from one of the girl-exclusive workshops, using conductive paint to create a touch-sensitive musical painting
After finishing their work in CAD, they got to see their creations fabricated with the laser cutters and 3D printers in the MakeMobile