“With my Glenview’s Got STEAM program we want to excite girls about the possibilities of STEM that are available to them and pair them with high school mentors who are involved in STEM.”
— Kate Stack
This Women’s History Month at Mand Labs we focus our attention on the incredible “Little Women” who are following their passion with grit and determination. In this blog series throughout March, we bring you stories of a few dynamic young women who are paving the way for our generation to soar right through the glass ceiling.
Kate Stack, a high school student at Glenview, Illinois, has taken her love for STEM beyond the four walls of her classroom. Her invention, Epi-Spot, a stuffed animal that teaches people with food allergies how to administer lifesaving epinephrine injections, had won her the Infosys Young Maker Award 2017. Kate has also been instrumental in starting a makerspace and STEM program at the Glenview Public Library with her Infosys grant money of $10,000.
Founder of Glenview’s Got STEAM, an outreach program for middle school girls, Kate loves attending and presenting her projects at Maker Faires. She spoke to Urmila Marak, Head of Communications at Mand Labs, about her invention and what inspires her to be so passionate about STEM. Excerpts.
1. Your prototype Epi-Spot was chosen for Infosys Young Maker Award – could you please tell us what is Epi-Spot all about and how did you come up with this invention?
Epi-Spot is a furry friend helping people with food allergies learn how to administer lifesaving epinephrine injections. Ever since I was three years old, I have had a life-threatening allergy to peanuts and tree nuts. So I had to learn how to self-administer epinephrine in case of a severe allergic reaction. As a kid, I remember learning how to use my injector was a scary experience because I was afraid of needles. The only ways of training were to practice on myself with a special training device or by injecting an orange. I wanted to create a friendlier method of training that was also engaging.
To create Epi-spot, I had to teach myself how to program electronics with an Arduino. The toy has a touch sensor on its thigh to register the injector being placed. Then an instruction screen is activated which guides the user through the steps of the injection. I have been able to use the project in many cool ways. I submitted the prototype to the Infosys Young Maker Award competition and received a $10,000 grant to donate to my local library to start STEM programming and a makerspace. I have also taken Epi-Spot to national food allergy conferences for feedback.
2. You have also founded Glenview’s Got STEAM, an outreach program for middle school girls. What inspires you to be so passionate about STEAM?
What inspires me to be passionate about STEM is how I can apply my creativity to solve problems. The area of STEM that I am most interested in right now is biomedical engineering. It’s been amazing to see how this field of engineering (and others!) is directly improving the lives of people. With my Glenview’s Got STEAM program we want to excite girls about the possibilities of STEM that are available to them and pair them with high school mentors who are involved in STEM.
3. How do you think as an influencer in your space you can motivate more girls in STEM?
I think that being a role model and enthusiastic about STEM is important in changing perceptions. It’s important to break stereotypes and show that you can be in STEM and still have a multitude of other interests. On my twitter account (@MakerKate) along with other teens in STEM we use our platform to encourage others and talk about our experiences.
4. As a young girl aspiring a career in STEM/STEAM, what major challenges do you face?
I think it is important to be resilient and keep a growth mindset. It’s crucial to believe in yourself even if others do not. I have found that by keeping focused on what I am learning instead of what others are doing is when I am the most successful.
5. Who are your role models and why?
My role models are mostly peers whom I have met at conferences or through social media. Many of them are a part of @TheSTEAM_Squad on Twitter but others include people like Abigail Harrison (@AstronautAbby) or Emily Calandrelli (@TheSpaceGal). They are all extremely talented and always willing to give advice or help with projects. Each one of them is rocking it in their own way and are an inspiration to others!
6. Why do you think it is important to introduce STEM education to children at an early age?
When I was younger I thought that you had to be extraordinarily smart and understand everything in order to have a chance at a STEM career. But through the Maker Movement and my various experiences I have seen that this is not true! These misconceptions exist among students so it’s important to challenge these notions.
7. What advice would you love to give your peers and other young girls who aspire to follow in your footsteps?
The biggest piece of advice I would give is not to be afraid of taking chances and trying something new. When I was younger I never imagined I would be as involved in STEM as I am now, but I had an open mind and took risks. It’s easy to measure yourself against all that you don’t know, but instead try to measure yourself by how much you have learned. It’s also helpful to reach out to people who are involved in things you are interested in; whether that be a neighbor, family member, teacher, or even a fellow student.
8. How do you like to relax when you are not working or studying?
I have been teaching myself the ukulele for the past couple years and I enjoy film photography! I love to work in a darkroom and I appreciate the hands-on aspect that goes into every roll of film or print. I’m also endlessly inspired by the Maker Movement and I like to attend and present at Maker Faires whenever possible.
We wish Kate Stack the very best in her future endeavors! Follow Kate Stack on Twitter @makerkate
Urmila, who is a Big Data and STEM enthusiast, works as the head of communications with Mand Labs. She is a believer in transformation of life and career through STEM. She can be reached on Twitter @umarak
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