Mobile operator network GSMA has been using 3D printing to encourage girls of 12 and 13 to pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects to pave the way for their careers.
At a demo day, a group of 24 girls from the Bridge Academy in Hackney used industrial tools such as 3D printers and laser cutters to design and make objects, and learned how to use scrap metal from old mobile phones to create new things.
The event was hosted by FabLab London, an event and workspace for digital design and rapid prototyping, where the girls listened to talks by women in industry and were assisted by FabLab co-founder Tony Fish and his team to design and create laser cut and 3D printed items.
GSMA’s chief strategy, officer Hyunmi Yang, said 3D printing represented the end product of a series of data and code delivered over networks, and pointed out that mobile will have a significant role to play in the future of this technology.
“Mobile phones actually enable or touch people’s lives in different parts of the world,” said Yang.
She explained that although many take connectivity for granted, technology such as mobile phones can have a significant impact on people, such as the 62% of those in sub-Saharan Africa who have no birth certificate, which means they cannot attend school.
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In such regions, people can now use mobile phones to register births and help to ensure a better future, said Yang.
“It’s not only the fun we have every day [with mobiles], it actually saves the lives of people,” she said.
“But there is one thing this industry could do better – we need more women.”
Laura Paterson, senior consultant at software design firm ThoughtWorks, asked the girls whether any of them had considered a career in which they can “build things from nothing” or become a software engineer. Fewer than five of them stood up.
But when asked whether they wanted to travel the globe and make a difference to people’s lives, all the pupils were interested.
“It’s not just about websites, it’s not just about stuff on the computer – technology is everywhere,” said Paterson.
The industry representatives told the girls that typical stereotypes surrounding technology are not necessarily correct.
Francesca Rosella, chief creative officer of creative fashion and wearable technology firm Cute Circuit, said: “When I made my first LED light up, I was so excited and I just couldn’t stop.
“The future is now, and the sooner you start, the easier it gets.”