RuralX inspires a volunteer to be a maker of dreams!

Posted on March 16, 2017

Paula Jensen
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Author – Carey Grosdidier, freelance writer

Nichole Cross volunteered at RuralX last summer intending to learn a little more about hosting an open space and collecting actionable feedback from a community gathering.

She left with so much more.

“I met Joe Bartmann (VP of Innovation at Dakota Resources) when I attended an ‘Art of Hosting’ event in Sioux Falls that he put on in November of 2015, and I was intrigued by the methodologies taught,” she explains. “He invited me to be part of the team at RuralX. As an industrial designer, I feel gathering and analyzing feedback is an important skill to practice, so I came to RuralX ready to help Joe gather and distribute participant feedback so attendees could take what they learned back to their communities to analyze and act upon.”

Nichole explains that while she was volunteering at the summit, she was captivated by keynote speaker Emily Pilloton.

“Here was this woman doing some of the things I wanted to do using design with the added bonus of architecture,” she says. “I was already trying to put together some type of maker’s event for girls, and here Emily was doing it with Girls Garage. I saw how people responded to her and I was so excited!”

At the time of RuralX, Nichole had already started a dialogue about her Girl’s Maker Day idea with Stacy Stahl, EmBe’s Girls and Youth Director in Sioux Falls. Nichole went to them because she had learned firsthand what a great organization they are when she volunteered to coach for Girls on the Run, a signature program of EmBe.

“I wanted this maker event to build confidence in girls, and incorporate art and design into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) skills because interdisciplinary skills are vital to solving the world’s problems. By a very early age, girls have often already convinced themselves out of STEM studies, even if they perceive themselves to be hard workers. It’s not a reflection of, but often a perception of, capability. I think we can help change that. I want girls to go to an event where it is just as normal to install a hard drive as it is to make a funky head band. They can do both,” says Nichole.

By the time the OpenX forums rolled around on the second day of RuralX, Nichole had talked herself into hosting a session and gathering feedback on her idea for a girl’s maker day.

“I figured what better way to learn about gathering feedback than to actually do it? People cheered me on and wanted to hear more,” she remembers. “I was trying to figure out how I could use my interests and talents to contribute to my chosen community. What RuralX did for me was help me solidify my ideas through feedback, gave me a chance to figure out how to articulate my goals, and the confidence I needed to proceed. OpenX and Emily Pilloton were exactly what I needed.”

With help from EmBe and by gathering a crowd of about a dozen partners and businesses, the first EmBe Girls Maker Day was held on October 15, 2016. The event hosted well over 150 girls, with crowds waiting outside the door before the event opened.

“The first event had great hands-on partners, like Sanford Research, Futurescapes 3D, The Pinning Place, Unglued, SD Gaming Bootcamp, 4H, The Sioux Falls Design Center, JAM Art Supplies, CTE and many more. Girls were learning about programming games, analyzing chemical reactions, creating 3D objects, weaving, crafting and having a blast,” says Nichole.

The event was such a success that the second EmBe Girl’s Maker Day will be held on April 22, 2017 from 10 am to 2 pm at EmBe in downtown Sioux Falls with a whole new group of sponsors. The event is free and available to girls ages 7-13.

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