Karina is a young female pursuing a career at the intersection of Business and Engineering. She has a blazing curiosity for all things tech, and is constantly focusing her energy on bridging the STEM education gap among underrepresented groups. Karina is currently studying at the Dyson School of Business at Cornell University, running a company that is making 3D printing accessible to underfunded schools, and creating a clothing line to inspire girls in STEM and leadership to feel confident and empowered every day. When Karina is not in school, she is at a Makerspace where she works on fun and unique projects like engineering a business card.
Could you let us know about your background and what brought you to 3D printing in the first place?
I was first introduced to 3D-printing through a mandatory modeling class in high school. Among all of my peers, I immediately fell in love with the promise of creating models and physical creations out of nothing. 3D-printing has been my gateway to engineering ever since. I continue to consistently print wherever I am whether that’s at NYU’s Makerspace or at a Fab Lab in Boston.
Can you describe your very first experience with 3D Printing?
I was standing in front of a 3D-printer, an early version of a Makerbot, I was staring at it, and appreciating just how much it made sense. It was such an intuitive yet powerful and complex idea to stack thin layers of plastic on top of each to create an object with volume. I mentally applauded whoever created the idea. In that moment, everything seemed to make sense, geometry became beautiful, and the different disciplines of math, science, and physics were seamlessly interweaved to develop a complex machine that appears so simple.
Can you tell us a bit more about your entrepreneurial project “Proto – Making Tech Accessible”?
When I started as the Robotics teacher at an elementary school, I made it my mission to introduce 3D-printing to the students and the school. Throughout the school year, I 3D-printed elements for my students at my school, Brooklyn Technical High School. For our culminating project, my students and I built a working prosthetic hand that is powered by an Arduino. The prosthetic hand was a huge success! The students always enjoyed seeing the creations that came out of a 3D-printer. Seeing how much my students enjoyed 3D-printing inspired me to create Proto, a progressive web app and mobile app experience that aims to combat unequal STEM opportunities and resources, particularly 3D-printing, on a local level. Through 3D-printer sharing, we want to connect schools, groups, and facilities with underused 3D-printers to schools, teachers, and students without access to 3D printers. Since Proto is a progressive web app that it is accessible on a phone, computer, and any digital device that would allow people to browse a collection of online-sourced 3D files. Anyone can easily set their desired settings like size, color preferences, and urgency, and a local facility or 3D-printer owner will print the file for pick-up. In doing so, teachers and people with minimal 3D-printing knowledge can print, learn, and benefit from the maker community all while helping other 3D-printists get the most out of their 3D-printers.
In your opinion, why is it important to connect schools with tech and 3D printing most specifically?
Just the few days of 3D-printing exposure to my students was enough to get everyone in the room excited. And with me leaving for college it may have been their last day to learning about 3D-prints. Seeing how much 3D-printing could benefit my ingenious students, I knew I couldn’t let it disappear from their education. I also knew that the school I work at would not be able to afford purchasing a 3D-printer, nor could they have someone qualified enough to maintain them.
I did some research, on what solutions are out there for people who don’t have the resources to own a 3D-printer. I was heartbroken to see that none of the solutions would work for my school who can’t afford the expensive pricing of an external facility printing for them or afford the costs associated with owning a 3D-printer. But my school wasn’t the only one, there are countless other schools in this same situation. There is also no standardized 3D-printing initiative for education in the United States, because of that, there are close to no statistics on the progress of 3D-printing education. Yet, 3D-printing is already considered to be an incredibly valuable skill and is on the verge of becoming one of the most valuable skills of the century. While countries like the UK are developing country-wide initiatives to introduce 3D-printing to grades as low as primary level, in the United States we are experiencing a “3D-printing gap”, formally coined the Additive Manufacturing gap.
While I feared for the long-term effects of a 3D-printing gap, what scared me most is the lack of student accessible resources that can make engineering so simple, beautiful, and above all do-able. 3D-printing shows students the exciting and less daunting parts of engineering, and as it did for me, it can inspire them to pursue STEM. Without 3D-printer access in schools and 3D-printer access to all, we are taking these opportunities away from under-resourced communities.
To date, what would you say is your greatest achievement in Additive Manufacturing?
The achievement that I have the most pride in is my Maker business cards which showcases my prototyping abilities while highlighting my love for 3D-printing. Ever since I got my first set of business cards, I have been mesmerized by the lasting impression that business cards can make. Because of this, I wanted my small rectangular representations of me to stand out and showcase the essence of who I am, a geeky, risk-taking, and empowered young woman.
Over the past two years, I have been searching for creative ways to show the engineer in me through a business card. I tried to 3D-print a hollow letter K in which I would insert a strip of paper with my contact information. After several failed attempts, I realized that a 3d-printed business card would be too thick and clunky to be appreciated by the recipient.
This summer, the graduate students I work with at NYU, by chance, showed me thin iodized aluminum cards meant for laser cutting. Almost immediately, I pictured exactly what my business card would look like. It would highlight my three most favorite makerspace skills in a bold way that’s never been done before. Focusing on 3d-printing, laser cutting, and vinyl cutting, I laser cut the content and layout of the card, 3d-printed my website url, and vinyl cut my email address along with a logo that I designed for my name.
To this day, this is my most treasured project because it reminds me of the power that I have as a maker. It reminds me of the love for engineering that 3D-printing instilled in me.
Do you have any (fun or not) story about your experience to share with us?
All of my experiences 3D-printing have very fun and fulfilling. Every time I get to 3D-print or see some cool 3D-prints I am filled with excitement. One of my most recent happy moments was when I visited Makelab NYC and got to explore their stunning facility, see the love that Christina has for 3D-printing, and appreciate the innovative techniques they are using.
Have you run into any challenges from being a woman in 3D Printing?
The 3D-printing community is by far one of the most inclusive communities I have ever experienced. Although like most engineering and tech fields, there are fewer women, the 3D-printing community has always felt a lot more inviting and appreciative of everyone’s different skill level. I am thankful that I started my engineering career through 3D-printing, if not for the support of the community I may not have developed such a strong passion for making and engineering.
Anything exciting coming up you’d like us to know about?
I started, Alpha, a clothing line to empower women in STEM. The soul of Alpha is to empower women and young girls in STEM fields through fashion. I want to change what it means to be in STEM by harmoniously merging femininity with technology and engineering. I am creating a set of garments with all of womens’ desires in mind. Our garments are fashionable, sophisticated, high-quality, workplace appropriate, fun, and versatile. We have designed 5 pieces for our first collection, with each piece dedicated to a specific engineering field (mechanical, electrical, software, etc). Our garments include a modest crop top, cardigan, loose sweater, pocket t-shirt, and patch. Alpha is solving the STEM representation gap in a never before done way; we are changing how women view their femininity in relation to engineering, and, most importantly, we are raising young girls and women to be the next wave of STEMinists.
Check out our website: alphabrandco.com, subscribe to our newsletter, and follow us on social media (will come soon) to stay updated on the numerous exciting things that we are doing.
What is the most impressive or impactful use of 3D printing you’ve seen so far?
Organizations are starting to send 3D-printers to hospitals in rural areas so that the hospitals can repair and create parts that would otherwise take extensive periods of time to receive. I think this is an amazing and ingenious idea that can save lives and improve the conditions of hospitals in those areas.
What do you consider game-changing technologies in Additive Manufacturing?
The development of precise rubber and metal printing. I think being able to print in these unique materials not only expands the applicability of 3D-printing to more everyday items, but also opens up a lot of doors for 3D-printing to help people in medicine.
What makes the 3D printing industry particularly interesting for you?
I appreciate how innovative the industry is. To me, it’s always seemed like 3D-printing has been one of those areas that’s at the forefront of modern technology. This constant innovation and development of unique ways to apply 3D-printing to everything whether it’s large-scale printing of concrete homes or small-scale printing with stem cells.
What do you think of the 3D printing industry today? And how would you like to see it evolve?
One day my hope is that 3D-printers are normalized to the point that everyone has one in their home and everyone can use one. Whenever in need of something, a person can think of 3D-printing it instead of going somewhere and buying it. In alignment with that, I also hope that 3D-printers can become much easier to use, for there to be less post-processing of parts, for maintaining 3D-printers to become easier, and for 3D-modelling software to be simpler. All of which, I see happening in the near future.
In your opinion, how could we encourage more women to become involved with 3D Printing?
I think the best way to encourage women into 3D-printing is to make 3D-printing accessible and visible. So many don’t even know what 3D-printing is or think it is some foreign technology. Making 3D-printing accessible to all and bringing 3D-printing into our daily lives so that more people can see its applicability will make women and many others curious and excited to learn more.
What we are doing at Alpha to encourage women to embrace STEM and 3D-printing is making them feel proud of being 3D-printists, as I like to call it. By making women feel confident and proud about their skillset through fashion, we are associating engineering with femininity and women. In that way, we are changing the social norms so that women feel that they belong and are meant for engineering and 3D-printing. To commemorate my love for 3D-printing, one of the pieces in our first collection is a patch that can be placed on anything (shoulder bags, jeans, backpacks, etc.) with a 3D-printer nozzle extruding the words “3D-Printist” and the words being actually 3D-printed in resin.
Favorite 3D tool (could be a software, machine, material…you name it) ?
Right now, I can’t stop fangirling about the Form 3 printer and the process of 3D-scanning.
Favorite moment in your day job?
Getting to create and design clothing patches with 3D-printed elements.
What’s on your 3D Printing wishlist for the next 5 years?
I really, really want a Formlabs printer for myself.