From making and 3D printing her own earrings, making illuminated dresses, and showing robotic pets on children’s TV show Fanimals … there’s no stopping Skills Bright Sparks Ambassador Mikayla Stokes. She is full ESTEAM ahead!!
Over lockdown, 72 STEAM and ESTEAM students met with Mikayla through a live stream.
Mikayla is now in her second year of Mechatronics Engineering. She is a back-to-back winner and ambassador of New Zealand’s top competition for inventors, Skills Bright Sparks. She co-founded TechGirlsNZ, an initiative to encourage girls to study science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). Highlighting to girls that engineering isn’t just for boys is extremely important to Mikayla.
Her advice: Think like an entrepreneur!
“It’s honestly not actually coming up with an idea,” says Mikayla. “It’s coming up with a problem. Because you can come up with a crazy brilliant idea, but if it doesn’t have a purpose or solve a problem, then what is the point? “Every single project I have come up with, was solving people’s everyday problems. What I find is if you analyse different parts of both your own and other people’s lives, that’s the key to finding a good problem. And then building something to solve this.
“While I was coming up with my inventions, I realised that you are actually engineering a product for a problem, which will be used by real people, your customers. So, as an entrepreneur, for whatever I am building or inventing, I think ‘how can I make it better and solve my customer’s problem? So, try seeing your idea as more of a product to help someone. Why would they buy it? What is the purpose of the product? What makes this better than any other solution that is currently out there?”
An example of solving a customer problem was Mikayla’s 2018 Bright Sparks project – an automated vertical garden that could be controlled through a smartphone app, called My Vege Wall. The garden incorporates an automated hydroponics system which maintains the pH and nutrient levels of the plants. It was designed for apartment dwellers, or those with minimal space and time to house a full garden.
It won Mikayla the Overall Female Award for Bright Sparks 2018 and a regional Young Entrepreneur of the Year award – as well as offers to buy the business concept.
Mikayla also volunteers to help out with Startup Weekend, a 54-hour event where people with different skills come together to take ideas and develop them into ventures.
Here’s what a couple of our students had to say about their live stream with Mikayla:
“I enjoyed the part where Mikayla shared her works and projects. I also liked how she shared her experience in the STEAM pathway and how it helped her through high school and life in general.” Angeline Lulu, Year 10 STEAM student
“She inspired me with her words on confidence and courage, standing up against stereotypes and pushing herself out of her comfort zone. Her projects are also spectacular and gave me a look into the creative side of E-STEAM with entrepreneurship.”
Shella Dabbach, Year 12 ESTEAM student
“It was very enlightening as STEAM/ESTEAM is usually mistaken as a ‘nerdy’ subject. I learnt how I could use STEAM and relate it to other subjects and link them with one another.”
Angeline Lulu, Year 10 STEAM
If your feeling inspired by Mikayla why not find out more about our ESTEAM programme here