Robots, STEAM, and entrepreneurship: a chat with Danielle Boyer.
In the first part of our conversation, Danielle shares her background in STEAM and how she became not only a robotics team mentor but a children’s book author.
Now we take a look into how she uses technologies — namely 3D printing and SOLIDWORKS software — to help broaden interest in and access to STEAM education.
How does 3D printing fit into all that you do?
“The startup process for teams requires a lot of training and effort, and I want the kids to be involved in robotics regardless of where their team is at in the planning process. 3D printing has helped immensely in achieving that goal.
3D printing has exploded in popularity among hobbyists and advances in the technology mean that it is more accessible and inexpensive than ever. This is massively important to my Every Kid Gets a Robot project where the idea is making a robot that is designed to be as affordable as possible.
I designed the chassis and wheels in SOLIDWORKS to utilize the massive benefits that 3D printing offers as a manufacturing process, namely, that (1) complex cutouts can be used to minimize material and save even more money and (2) mounting points and other features can be integrated into one part (the chassis) to simplify assembly of the robot.
The benefits have been awesome. Using all of this, I was able to get the cost of the robot all the way down to $18.95 per kit and the readily available nature of 3D printers means that the community was able to band together to 3D print these robots for schools and FIRST LEGO League Teams all over the U.S.
I love to use the robot to educate kids about 3D printing. I think teaching 3D printing to kids is important because it teaches kids that their ideas can be materialized quickly and that there are so many possibilities.”
[Robot body being 3D printed on a Prusa, left; robot wheels being printed on a Mark One, right / Images: Danielle Boyer]
How do you encourage STEAM in your community?
“Regarding the teams that I mentor and assist, I do daily home visits with them at the parent’s house. I have a blue box that I fill with robots, 3D prints, and new STEAM activities that I bring with me.
I started my involvement with the community when I started the business team on FIRST Robotics Competition Team 4384 from International Academy East in 2017. This led me to start outreach programs such as a weekly educational STEAM newsletter for parents, classes, and more. I also judge, coordinate, and volunteer at robotics competitions and have my FRC 4384 students participate as well.”
What brought you to SOLIDWORKS World 2019?
“I first met Rachel York (the Community and User Advocacy Manager at Dassault Systèmes) at the FIRST Detroit World Championship in April 2018 while she was handing out certificates for FIRST Robotics Teams that utilize SOLIDWORKS. I told her about Every Kid Gets a Robot and she featured me on their Instagram story. Later, in June, I was featured on SOLIDWORKS’ educational blog and in September, I spoke at the User Advocacy Day at the Corporate Headquarters.
I’ve been using SOLIDWORKS for almost five years now and being able to have a relationship with a company that has impacted my life and the lives of others so much means the world to me.
This all led me to bring a robotics mentee of mine to present a breakout session with me at SOLIDWORKS World. I had a blast! Not only did I go to Texas for the first time, but I was able to bring my coloring books to the Dallas Children’s Health Center, get featured in the SOLIDWORKS Born to Design podcast, and learn so much more about CAD and new technology.”
Why do you think it’s important to get kids interested in STEAM subjects?
“STEAM related subjects are at their strongest when they focus on teaching kids to tap into their natural and innate curiosity about the world around them rather than focusing solely on producing future engineers and scientists. Success in the subject is achieved by allowing kids to investigate and encourage them to question the world in which they exist. Kids gain valuable problem-solving skills and knowledge to better themselves and their communities through novel solutions to difficult problems.”
What’s next for you?
“My biggest goal is to continue to create accessible STEAM education for kids, and I have many awesome projects coming up in the future to fulfill that goal.
I have a couple of STEM speaking engagements coming up, including a presentation at the Eastern Michigan SOLIDWORKS User Group and my second annual presentation at the 2019 FIRST Detroit World Championship. I am continuing to expand with Every Kid Gets a Robot in schools and in SOLIDWORKS User Groups. I am working with a couple of SOLIDWORKS resellers to expand on this goal and to teach SOLIDWORKS and 3D printing classes and to also help the inner-city Pontiac.”
Read part one of our interview here, with more focus on STEAM in school, affordable robotics, and mentoring.
Check out Danielle’s books here: The STEAM Connection.