Maker from the age of 4, Suz Somersall has explored many mediums until she finally found her true passion in 3D modeling and 3D printing. After studying art and design as an undergraduate at Brown University she went on to study and teach at The Rhode Island School of Design – where she first was introduced to the world of 3D printing. Her latest startup – KiraKira3D – teaches kids about 3D printing through online art and design classes.
Suz, could you let us know about your background and what brought you into 3D Printing in the first place?
I have always loved building things. As a little girl, I was also building forts with my brother, repurposing my dollhouses into starship control panels, and making gifts for friends. Looking back, my interests definitely were both in construction and art, however in college I didn’t feel like engineering courses were exciting to me. So I went down the path of art and design instead. It wasn’t until I was at the Rhode Island School of Design in grad school that I learned about 3D printing.
What was your very first experience with 3D Printing?
I took my first 3D modeling class at The Rhode Island School of Design as a graduate student there. Previously I had mostly been working with my hands and I found it sort of limiting. I would have these ideas for things I wanted to make but felt stifled by the tools I had to work with. Once I realized the infinite possibilities with 3D modeling and 3D printing, my passion really began to ignite.
You are now the founder of KiraKira. could you explain furthermore what KirKira is and the services that you are providing?
KiraKira teaches kids – with a focus on girls – about 3D printing/modeling, engineering and design-thinking through building products that they love – iPhone cases, fashion, skateboards. Our mission is to close the gender gap in STEM.
On KiraKira.com users can watch 3D modeling classes, upload and download designs and enter contests to win points and free prints as well as to get inspired by other makers in our community.
Our app KiraKira3D allows kids to play with our modeling program and make their first STL in less than a minute. Then they can move over to the website to take a deeper dive into learning.
We are also really excited about the Maker PopUp we are opening in Ghirardelli Square on May 1st. Autodesk and HP have been amazing sponsors for the space and we can’t wait to start sharing our love for STEAM learning with in-person workshops in SF this summer!
How did you come to build the company?
While working with undergrad UVA students a few years ago, I realized the need for more diversity in engineering curricula content as well as diversity in the ways and people teaching the material. The way I learned engineering tools and software at RISD is not the way most colleges teach it. I knew we could get a lot of students excited about STEM if we had a wider offering of classes – so I began testing and it worked, even with kids as young as 5. It was through my experiences at RISD that I began to realize something – if you lead with creativity, the love for STEM will follow. Now I want to share that with as many other students as I can.
As a woman entrepreneur, what was/ is your biggest challenge? Any challenge specific to the 3D printing industry?
I think a lot of investors don’t know too much about 3D printing and don’t realize the impact and implications it can have on improving STEM education for kids everywhere. I’ve found we have to show them, through kids stories and through the incredible things that they are making, this illustrates the power of 3D printing and the social impact it can have, better than me telling them!
Anything exciting coming up you’d like us to know about?
Definitely the launch of our app KiraKira3D and the opening of our Maker PopUp in Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco, both happening May 1st! Hope you can all visit us in person in SF or just on your mobile devices through our app (only iOS for now!)
What makes the 3D printing industry particularly interesting for you
- As a business person?
The incredible possibilities. 3D printing is becoming more and more accessible every year. Customization is the future of manufacturing and having a business that is evolving with the 3D printing industry as it grows is extremely exciting.
- As a woman?
3D printing is like STEM generally, there are still more men exploring this space than women. I’m excited to see this change and through organizations like Women in 3D Printing we can inspire each other and reach more girls and women.
In your opinion, how could we encourage more women to become involved with 3D Printing?
I don’t think women realize the number of careers that utilize 3D modeling and 3D printing as a part of their day to day work. Architects, engineers, animators, artists, all can use 3D modeling to create and build. It is the future of making. Start learning!
Thank you for reading and for sharing!