My Invention Story
Technical education is not accessible for everyone.
I'm the girl that makes robots, and I give them all away.
Growing up, I saw my little sister struggle to access technical educational opportunities. She’d beg to learn about coding and robots, but the opportunities that did exist were just way too inaccessible. Later on, I'd witness local robotics teams and students struggle to purchase expensive educational resources. I never saw myself represented in STEM careers and I never felt like I belonged. It wasn't fair then, and it isn't fair now. Sadly, it is an all too common experience for many youths. But why does this matter?
Technical education is crucial for Indigenous communities, it promotes self-determination, empowers tech career opportunities, and overcomes systemic barriers. Despite facing challenges like limited computer and internet access, lack of role models, high dropout rates, and underrepresentation in STEM, technical education can bridge the digital divide, enhance career prospects, and assert control over technological development. It empowers Indigenous communities by addressing disparities, amplifying voices, and fostering inclusion in the tech world. We need to have our voices represented in STEM.
To bridge this educational gap, I created The STEAM Connection, a minority and youth-led charity on a mission to make technical education accessible for youth through the power of robotics. We have reached 800k+ children with technical education with an emphasis on language revitalization. We focus on the future: ushering in a new age of education via personal and wearable robotics, ethical artificial intelligence systems, and augmented reality. Informed by the past and present, The STEAM Connection utilizes traditional knowledge to uplift and protect Indigenous communities.
My flagship invention for The STEAM Connection was Every Kid Gets a Robot or EKGAR, an affordable and scalable educational robotics kit to increase technical educational accessibility. I invented it when I was eighteen in 2019 as a recent high school graduate. Educational robotics strengthen and support students' skills in developing their knowledge through the creation, design, assembly, and operation of robots.
EKGAR is an app-controlled robot made from recycled plastic that costs $18.95 USD to make and goes to kids for free. EKGAR teaches technical skills in a project-based way with a culturally competent curriculum featuring representative characters. The robots come with a pre-programmed loop for communities without stable Internet access. The core technology is an ESP-32 Development Board. I've manufactured and distributed 11k+ free kits and have 34k+ educators on our Make-A-Robot virtual learning platform with resources to make your own robots.
Since then, I have worked alongside mentors to create the SkoBot, a robot designed as a language preservation tool. Language is vital to preserving Indigenous cultures and identities—but resources are dwindling and hard to access. Indigenous languages are extinct in the United States, and estimates suggest that only 20 Indigenous languages will remain by 2050. My own language, Ojibwemowin, is considered an endangered language. Hundreds of Indigenous languages are extinct in the United States, and estimates suggest that only 20 Indigenous languages will remain by 2050. So, we created a personalized, wearable, and interactive Indigenous language revitalization robot that senses motion and speaks our languages. Our students build the robots themselves. Built to take tech learning out of the classroom, the robots were made to supplement community language learning for free. It has been a success in enabling our youth to bring the robots home to learn with their families and in creating learning tools they resonate with.
For us. By us.
My public inventions
What I've Created
These are just a few of my creations. I also invent new things with my mentees and students and for companies who are looking to use technology to create positive change in the world.
Every Kid Gets a Robot (EKGAR)
Increasing technical educational accessibility for youth with an affordable robotics kit.
Every Kid Gets a Robot is an educational robotics kit that costs $18.95 USD to manufacture and is sent to children for free. After I saw the rising need for sustainable and accessible technical education within my own community, I developed EKGAR. This is a forward-thinking educational solution that is a game changer for many traditionally excluded populations. Since early 2019, tens of thousands of bots have been put in kids hands.
Learning our Indigenous languages.
A personalized, wearable, and interactive Indigenous language revitalization robot that senses motion and speaks our languages. The students build the robots themselves. Built to take tech learning out of the classroom, the robots were made to supplement community language learning for free. It has been a success in enabling our youth to bring the robots home to learn with their families and in creating learning tools they resonate with.
The future of sustainable technology.
The rebirth of EKGAR. To replace the bioplastic, I designed a biodegradable and plant based paste that hardens and replaces the plastic altogether, easy for us and our students to manufacture from anywhere. Our aim is to keep growing beyond the need for plastic, and to allow kids to engage in important technical skills in a project-based way all while conserving the Earth.
This project is a winner of the Verizon x Clinton Foundation Social Innovation Challenge.
A free open-source learning solution for all youth.
I recently turned 20-years-old. I would normally be celebrating by putting on a robotics event or volunteering to helps kids learn about STEAM. This year with the pandemic, we decided to shake things up by releasing a new educational robot. Twenty is an affordable, simple, and creative robotics kit that you can assemble for free at home. This resource is open source and was created as a gift to express our gratitude to our loyal supporters, our students, and our communities.