MakerGirl thrives and expands to new heights

MakerGirl is making some major progress as it looks to impact young girls across the country.

Elizabeth Engele (left) Julia Haried
Elizabeth Engele (left) Julia Haried

The nonprofit, which was founded by Gies College of Business students in 2014, allows college students to teach science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills to girls ages 7-10. MakerGirl originally offered 3D printing courses only at the University of Illinois, but it has since expanded to other academies with special coding and robotics classes; those sessions now take place at Northwestern University as well. A partnership with DePaul University should be finalized soon, with plans to take the nonprofit to universities in the Milwaukee area and beyond.

“I’ve been amazed building a company and how incredible it can be when you pull out the strength of every individual ChangeMaker,” said co-founder Elizabeth Engele ’15 BA, a Nashville, Illinois native, and Lakeview resident.

Engele, now a full-time employee at LinkedIn, said Gies Business was a huge key to MakerGirl’s success and growth.

“Being at Gies helped in so many ways,” said Engele, citing The Hoeft Technology & Management Program minor, the social entrepreneurship class, and networking events that created a foundation to build MakerGirl.

Those thoughts were shared by fellow MakerGirl co-founder and Gies graduate Julia Haried ’15 ACCY, ’16 MAS, a St. Ignatius College Prep graduate and resident of Chicago’s Little Italy neighborhood.

Haried, a full-time employee at Deloitte in audit and assurance, said: “The Gies College of Business supported the launch and growth of MakerGirl in many ways. During a Gies study-abroad lunch in 2013, a friend told me to check out a social entrepreneurship class he was assisting with that was cross-listed between the Gies College of Business and the School of Social Work. In that class, the idea was born and incubated by myself and co-founder, Elizabeth Engele, and supported by course instructors. The idea was further launched in the iVenture Accelerator, a Gies-supported venture accelerator that gave us $10,000, mentorship, and a summer to grow MakerGirl’s impact at the Research Park. Because of these experiences, I was challenged and encouraged to solve a big social problem. It enabled me to continue my commitment from St. Ignatius College Prep to be ‘a woman for others.’”

Stephanie Hein
Stephanie Hein

MakerGirl also will have its first CEO, Stephanie Hein ’16 LAS, starting in September. Hein, a University of Illinois alumna and Hartland, Wisconsin, native, said one of her main responsibilities will be creating new MakerGirl “academies,” starting with universities in the Midwest and eventually expanding nationwide. Hein, Engele, and Haried said they want MakerGirl to impact 10,000 girls by 2023, including half from underrepresented and rural communities.

Engele, who grew up on a corn, bean, and wheat farm, said the mission to help girls in rural communities is personal.

“I definitely think it’s important to help girls in those areas,” Engele said. “Creative thinking can be combined with a STEM degree. It is one of the most powerful combinations to build, but I grew up thinking that a STEM profession excluded being creative.”

Hein has been involved with MakerGirl since 2015 when she was a molecular biology student and was “hooked” when witnessing girls watching 3D printers. She also wants to expand the #MakerGirlGoesMobile campaign; the first took place in 2016, when a MakerGirl truck traveled more than 10,000 miles and hosted 61 sessions in 17 states.

“The #MakerGirlGoesMobile campaign is something I hope we can expand to reach even more girls across the country,” said Hein, an Arrowhead High School graduate who is moving to Champaign in order to support MakerGirl full-time.

Two previous Kickstarter campaigns helped raise more than $47,000 for MakerGirl, and Engele said the nonprofit is looking for sponsors and other financial backing moving forward.

MakerGirl has 15 STEM students at the University of Illinois who teach sessions, while Northwestern has three students. Not only do student leaders run the sessions, but run the behind the scene logistics of each academy.

Engele and Haried are thrilled by MakerGirl’s growth, considering it started with one pilot session of seven girls in 2014.

“It’s so much fun and fulfilling to build a program that creates a meaningful experience for girls right now that also impacts their future,” Engele said. “We have witnessed girls self-identify as MakerGirls after the program, which is incredibly powerful for themselves, their families, and their communities. ”

Said Haried: “MakerGirl brings me the greatest joy when I see young girls get excited about science, technology, engineerin,g and math, and literally shift who they perceive themselves to be in the world.”

For more information on MakerGirl, visit makergirl.us.