Posted on February 24 2016
In our last post, we recapped our experience at Solidworks World, a conference organized by the 3D modeling software company Solidworks, its resellers, its users and those who appreciate computer aided design. While we participated in some great informational panels and interviews, we were also lucky enough to meet some amazing women who are designing and building really cool products and experiences.
In our opinion, one of the stand-out launches at the event was Solidworks’ Apps for Kids, a series of web apps that help kids create, visualize and tell stories through a simplified, kid-friendly version of their software. We’re huge advocates for getting kids focused on STEM career paths early on and this is a great entryway for those looking to explore.
We had the pleasure of speaking with Chinloo Lama, a Senior User Experience Design Engineer and one of the creators of Solidworks Apps for Kids. She told us about her background as a female engineer and what drives her to create new avenues for kids to learn.
Math: The universal language
Chinloo was 9 when she came to the U.S. from Malaysia and, like a lot of kids, was looking for a way to connect with her fellow classmates. That’s where math came in. Math became a universal language for Chinloo, aiding in her cultural assimilation. Her love of math continued through her studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where she studied Mechanical Engineering. Like most engineering programs, the ratio of males to females was low; at RPI, it was 7 to 1. After university, Chinloo pursued a graduate degree at Rochester Institute of Technology in computer graphic design, where she was able to merge her love of the arts and mechanics into what would eventually become a passion for user experience.
Women Empowering Women
Post grad, Chinloo went on to work as a mechanical engineer at Polaroid, working on the internals of optical printers and instant film that the company is so famous for. At Polaroid, she quickly learned that the tech industry is still very male dominated, and is well known for its high female turnover rate. In fact, a Harvard Business Review study from 2008 found that as many as 50% of women working in science, engineering and technology will, over time, leave because of hostile work environments. This is why, at Trusst, we are strong advocates for female mentors and advisors at a very young age to help promote STEM learning and development.
Chinloo recalls an experience she had while traveling abroad in Japan for a business trip. She was sitting at a conference table surrounded by men and was constantly put down by her colleagues. She asked her supervisor after this trip why she was asked to participate, considering the reactions she received. She was told that her involvement was key and that she wouldn’t have been sent had she not been a valuable asset to the team.
Unsupportive work environments are credited as one of the main reasons why women decide to leave their careers. One of the best ways to encourage women in STEM professions is to be a constant cheerleader. By supporting women, we can help them to continue to pursue their passions and break up that “boys club” mentality.
A Solid Start
Post Polaroid, Chinloo moved to Boston, where her husband was already located for work. Solidworks was impressed with her mechanical engineering background, and hired her for a new role - a position that was created specifically for her. This gave Chinloo the opportunity to apply her graphics background to practical applications and increase the user’s experience of the Solidworks platform. She became a Senior User Experience Design Engineer and one of the creators of Solidworks Apps for Kids. And she loves it.
Solidworks Apps for Kids
The Apps for Kids programs allow Chinloo to merge both her art and technical backgrounds. The series of apps contains a variety of experiences that allow kids to create in whichever way is most familiar to them. The apps include Capture it, Shape it, Style it, Mech it, Show it, and Print it. These allow new Solidworks users to explore shape, form, and function for their own creations. Best of all, the company facilitates the 3D printing of their object when they’re done creating - you can watch your design come to life!
This is especially true for girls, who have been shown to learn differently than their male counterparts. The software takes into consideration the different learning styles between girls and boys, and helps to create experiences for them that use cad, but in a way that they’re more familiar with (like storytelling). Storytelling is a powerful tool, and through apps like Show It, you can take your CAD model you’ve created, personalize it, and animate it to create a narrative.
From the Solidworks Blog announcing the release:
“In 2009, the United States Department of Labor listed the ten most wanted employees. Eight of those employees were ones with degrees in the STEM fields: accounting, computer science, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, information sciences and systems, computer engineering, civil engineering, and economics and finance. According to the U. S. Department of Commerce, STEM occupations are growing at 17%, while others are growing at 9.8%.”
Here at Trusst, we help to aid in promoting STEM careers, especially for women, guiding both by example and encouragement. And - you guessed it - we’re huge advocates of what Solidworks is doing for STEM. We’re very excited to see what Chinloo and her team have created and how it can help to shape the career paths of kids.