A Conversation in STEAM: Part One
Robots, STEAM, and entrepreneurship: a chat with Danielle Boyer.
Danielle is a brilliant young designer and roboticist who I first came into contact with following this year’s SOLIDWORKS World. At the event, she was featured in the SOLIDWORKS Born to Design podcast, brought her STEAM children’s books to the Dallas Children’s Health Center, and presented for a breakout session with a FIRST Robotics Competition mentee.
Her points of view provide an interesting look into how STEAM subject areas — science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics — fit into today’s educational curriculum and why it’s important to have students gain interest in and access to resources fitting these lesson plans.
Danielle has authored and illustrated a selection of books designed to help younger kids become interested in STEAM subjects, and touches on why it’s so important for them to see that these areas are a good fit for them. (As we often discuss, representation matters.)
Please meet Danielle Boyer — in her own words.
Please tell us a bit about yourself and how you became interested in STEAM.
“I am an 18-year-old educator, roboticist, and entrepreneur who is passionate about STEAM and its use in education. I mentor and assist 35 FIRST and VEX robotics teams across the U.S. In the past year and a half, I've started 30+ STEM educational community programs. I have judged, coordinated, and volunteered at over 15 robotics competitions in the past year.
I got my start in STEM at age 10 when I taught a kindergarten animal science class at my homeschool group and continued it at age 12 when I mentored my younger sister’s Robofest team.”
After high school, how did you pursue your interests in STEAM areas?
“I recently graduated from Troy High School and am currently taking a gap year. I’ve been able to spend the time I would be in school to increase STEAM accessibility for kids.
Personally, I am continuing to grow in my STEAM knowledge by working at InVanse Technologies where I develop plant monitoring software. I have also been studying for my SOLIDWORKS certification exams and have been getting my NIMS (National Institute for Metalworking Skills) certifications.”
How did you get started with The STEAM Connection and your series of children's books?
“I started an organization called The STEAM Connection and developed 5 STEAM coloring books without words or numerals to increase accessibility for kids from a range of cultures and backgrounds. 87% of my high school robotics students travel during the summer, and I wanted to create an affordable curriculum that could be taken with them to any country that they visit.
Giving kids the representation that they deserve is as important to me as an affordable STEAM education. According to a study conducted by the National Center for Educational Statistics, women of color earned a small percentage of bachelor's degrees across all STEM fields between 2008-2015, with 2.9% of STEM degrees received by black women, 3.6% of STEM degrees received by Latina women, and 4.8% of STEM degrees received by Asian women. I believe that these numbers are symptoms of the lack of opportunities and social paradigms set within these minorities. My books showcase a diverse set of characters learning about STEAM, saving their environment, and more. I illustrated 88 pages of the books and partnered with other teenagers from Oakland County to finish the remaining 12 pages.”
[Images from The STEAM Connection, ready to be colored / Images: Danielle Boyer]
How did you get involved in mentoring and assisting robotics teams?
“My younger sister tried to join a FIRST Tech Challenge robotics team when we started attending public school, but she was put on a waitlist with 70+ kids. I wanted to help facilitate the necessary change by working with parents to start teams. I used GroupMe to connect parents and started holding meetings at my local community center to educate them. This led to my involvement in starting 17 FIRST teams in the 2018-19 season.
Mentoring and assisting from there on out felt natural because I wanted to be there to support the teams and guide them. My inbox is filled daily with emails from parents, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love working with the kids every day.”