The Nevada Discovery Museum
Not too long ago, we launched the Panty Drop Giving Program. The goal of the program is to partner with nonprofit organizations that are closing the gender leadership gap by helping underrepresented women and girls find the opportunities, skills and support they need to succeed. As a former engineer, I’ve always been passionate about STEM education and the way technology impacts nearly everything we do — including the clothes we wear and the way we shop for them. So, our summer spotlight organization is the Nevada Discovery Museum, the Reno science museum, where I was lucky enough to spend a day participating in their summer camp program.
My day at Style Engineers
One of The Discovery’s summer programs is Style Engineers, implemented here as a week-long camp program for students in grades 5-7. During the week, campers explored the ways science and technology impact fashion through various activities, science demonstrations, and a culminating fashion show where they show off their creations. During my day there, I chatted with the campers about my career path and my journey to starting a business – illustrating how you can go from loving Calculus & Physics to studying engineering, designing warships, working in startup marketing, and then creating an underwear business!
Undoubtedly, the most difficult part of my presentation was question and answer time. 5th graders can be pretty intimidating! Some of my favorite questions were:
- How old are you?
- How often do you use math?
- How big do you want your business to be?
- Was it fun being an engineer?
The messier the better
It’s amazing how many lessons you can learn from 5th-7th graders during activity time. Our first activity was creating tie-dyed bottle cap magnets. At the beginning, no one was sure how it would work (thankfully, our instructor did a great job of explaining that this would be an experiment, and it’s OK if it doesn’t work out). Basically, you create the tie-dye patterns by floating nail polish in a petri dish of water. Once you get a few different colors in there, you can swirl it around and dip the cap in to coat it. At first, the campers tentatively put a few drops of color in their dishes. As they gradually warmed up, they added more and the designs got crazier and crazier. By the end of the activity, the activity tables and campers’ hands were covered in nail polish…and there were several amazing bottle cap designs.
Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good enough
The campers also continued the work they were doing on their outfits for the fashion show at the end of the week. With an assortment of scrap materials and basic tools, they pulled together superhero costumes, coats and capes, aprons and more. Without worrying too much about making things perfect, they used their creativity and dove in and cut, glued and taped materials together. And, ultimately, they had fun and functional pieces. There’s definitely a startup lesson in there about using what you’ve got, getting something basic together, and not stressing about how your vision isn’t fully realized yet.