Gaby Rochino is a rising senior studying Mechanical Engineering at Rowan University in South Jersey and Founder/CEO of Think Like A Girl – Engineering Kits. We sat down with Gaby earlier this week to chat about her innovative and inspiring brand…
HQ: What made you go into the engineering field?
GR: I’m an artsy creative person. I wanted to go into art and design at first. I used to think engineering and creativity were on two different sides of the spectrum. When I enrolled in a high school elective called “drafting” (CAD course), I realized engineering was VERY creative! This class also introduced me to technical software.
HQ: What was the male to female ratio in your High School CAD classroom? And how did it affect your experience?
GR: At first I had really low self esteem because I was one the few girls in the class. But then, after applying my artistic skills to the CAD projects, I became one of the top students.
HQ: Who are some key influences in your life that encouraged you to become and engineer?
GR: My Dad, Uncle and Grandpa are all engineers – they all encouraged me to take high level math courses and that drafting class, too. I was also inspired in High School by the upper level chemistry students who were invited to go to Lockheed Martin’s Women In Engineering Day. There, I was able to talk to real female engineers and female engineering students and that is what specifically inspired me to become a mechanical engineer.
HQ: Thus far in your life as a budding engineer – what are your favorite experiences?
GR: Gaby’s favorite experience at school was with the SAE Society of Automotive Engineers Competition Team. The competition I was involved in was called “Super Mileage.” Essentially, I was on on a team with a bunch of other engineering students working to build an Eco-friendly car that uses the least amount of gas for the most amount of miles. I was on the aerodynamics team, made the aerodynamic shell of the car and she was also the driver!
HQ: What was that like being the driver?
GR: It was cool. Car only went 20 MPH. I had to train and learn how to drive it. Learn what to do if the car broke down.
HQ: What was the highlight of being on this team?
GR: Applying the CAD skills that she learned in High School and College. I used it to find a process to fabricate the shell. My team already had the shell, they just needed a way to fabricate it. Combined it with my engineering skills and creativity skills … I sort of made a 3D puzzle as a mold for the shell.
That’s something I feel really proud of, to be able to create that.
We asked Gaby more about her experiences as a female engineering student:
One of Gaby’s required courses – thermal fluid sciences was the hardest class in her mechanical program, she tells HQ. It combines thermodynamics, fluids and heat transfer. In her program she’s one of 7 girls out of 55 graduating mechanical engineers! “My school isn’t very diverse to begin with, I’m also the only Asian female in my graduating class. I’d be sitting in these really tough lectures and I’d feel so ‘un-confident’ because I’d look around the room and felt I couldn’t relate to anyone.”
I would think to myself, “Maybe I’m not cut out for this … maybe I’m not meant to be engineer.”
Another course that was required for Gaby is Entrepreneurship and Innovation. “In that course we had to come up with a unique business idea. We had to research and find a need. So! My idea was to use everything I was feeling in my program, all the self-doubt, all the negativity and turned it around into a product that inspires girls to not worry about where they come from … and bam! Think Like A Girl was born.”
And here’s how the kits actually came to be …
After Gaby took the Entrepreneurship and Innovation class, she applied to have her own engineering clinic within her program. Through that she was able to get a team of students and $5000 in grant funding for the project. “To make the kits – we went on to develop the product and the business. We did a lot of research on why girls lose interest in engineering, why they lose interest in stem. We also researched the psychological message in how girls learn best and what really grasps her interest in a certain toy or learning tool. We also collected our own data, with surveys of parents and educators … and we even talked to girls.”
In our Think Like A Girl Engineering Kits – every component has a specific purpose. We made prototypes and designed the materials ourselves.
The 8 main components:
- Hands On Engineering Activity – using common materials, that teach engineering topics/industries.
- Gadget Guide – an illustrated short story booklet for girls 6-12, acts as an instruction manual for each of the activities. Girls learn best through means of story telling and role playing … things they feel a personal connection to.
- Real Women Engineer Trading Card – included because there is a lack of female role-models in the industry.
- Design Project – a creative craft, that encourages creative skills – corcheting, sewing or painting.
- Sustainability Fact Card – this exposes girls to real sustainable engineering applications. “We want to engineer sustainability … ALWAYS.”
- Outfit Design – blank card where girls can design an outfit …. for the main character Gaby Gadget. They can submit their design online for their outfits to be featured in a future story booklet. Which again, gives girls that personal connection.
- Engineering Tool Card – features a real engineering tool. It’s not a typical hammer or saw … it’s more like a calipers. “I didn’t even know this tool existed until college,” Gaby said to HQ with a chuckle.
- Sur-prize – small collectible prize that’s included in each of the kits. They’re collectibles!
HQ: What are your plans for after college?
GR: Pursuing this business full time. Due to the encouragement we’ve gotten from the South Jersey/Philadelphia entrepreneurship communities, we’ve found: people want to help us out in developing this business! We’ve also been involved in plenty of competitions, too. We also just auditioned for Shark Tank. We feel confident about pursuing this full time.
And just a side note, when Gaby says “we” she’s referring to her and her leadership team:
• Alexis Basantis, Chief Communications Officer (CCO) and Co-Founder
• Megan DeGeorge, Chief Operations Officer (COO) and Co-Founder
What a story! Right? Want to help Gaby and Think Like A Girl Engineer Kits? Give to their KICKSTARTER Campaign. Their goal is $40,000 with a July 6th deadline.