Gaby Rochino is the CEO and co-founder of Think Like a Girl engineering kits; a monthly kit for girls ages 6-12+ that teaches them the fundamentals of engineering. The kit is targeted towards girls, not by making them pink and purple, but with subjects and activities that will actually interest them. And as if she isn’t busy enough being an entrepreneur; she’s also a senior at Rowan University with a major in mechanical engineering.
How she got her start: Gaby Rochino comes from a family of engineers; her father, uncle, and grandfather are all in the field and that was her first inspiration. “I started taking a drafting course sophomore year. I continued on in my junior and senior years. That’s where I actually learned Auto CAD. I only learned 2D drafting. I also learned Google Sketchup, which is a surface modeling tool. After that experience, my summer after my sophomore year, my uncle actually taught me SOLIDWORKS and then helped me get certified.”
Think Like A Girl (TLAG): Gaby first had the idea for an entrepreneurship class project. She was inspired by the lack of diversity at her school; she’s only one of seven girls in the engineering program of her graduating class. “I wrote a pitch about a product that got girls interested in engineering. It was Think Like a Girl. When I submitted it online, I was chosen as one of the top 10 out of over 85 applicants. Because I was chosen as one of the top 10, I got to present my pitch to a panel of judges during the elevator pitch competition. Through that I actually won first place. “
In her junior year she took one of the toughest classes required for her major; in addition to being one of the only girls in her year, this would often leave herself questioning if she chose the right program. “Iit would kmess with my head when I would be study for 8 hours a night and then I would still get a C on a quiz. I’d just think, ’Maybe I’m not cut out for engineering.’ I used that motivation from my lack of confidence in that particular course and used it to fuel my idea for Think Like a Girl.” Eventually, she realized that being a girl should not define who she was as a person or engineer and she should be using her struggles as an advantage. “I don’t want girls to ever think that they’re incapable of doing something just because of their gender.”
Along with fellow engineers from Rowan, Gaby took her idea from her entrepreneurship class and made it a reality. The kits are meant to address the issues of why most girls aren’t interested in becoming engineers. “2 of the main reasons are lack of female role models and the misconception of what it is to be an engineer.” Studies have shown that girls generally want to have careers that help people, such as a nurse or veterinarian, but what many girls don’t realize is that engineers help people as well.
TLAG engineering kits are composed of multiple parts, each addressing different aspects of engineering and learning. “The first component is the engineering activity, which is a hands-on project that teaches the fundamentals of engineering. The example that we made for that in our prototype was actually using gumdrops and toothpicks to build a 3D structure. That will teach the fundamentals of structural engineering, and it will show why triangle shapes are stronger than squares.”
Through much research, the TLAG team discovered that girls learn best with role playing and storytelling. In order to address this aspect, Gaby created the Gadget Guide. “The engineering activity teaches engineering fundamentals, but the main part of the kit is the next component, which is called the Gadget Guide; this is an illustrated short story booklet that acts as an instruction manual for each of the engineering activities. The reason we’re focusing so much on this illustrated short story booklet is because after all of our research, a lot of articles and databases have proven a connection between children’s imaginative play and divergent thinking in girls”
“Another component is the design project. This is a hands-on creativity project, which teaches important design skills. For instance, our prototype is called Gabby Gadget and the Eiffel Tower, the prototype design project is a mini easel, mini canvas, and a mini paint set. This will teach watercolors, because the main reason for our design project is to introduce girls to different ways of being creative. This is actually a really important part of engineering, the creativity aspect.”
Just recently, TLAG separated the box into two age groups, 6-12 and 12+. “For instance in our prototype, the 6-9 year olds would get the gumdrops and toothpicks, but then the 10-12+ range they would get more challenging materials such as balsa wood strips to make their bridges and glue.”
Biggest female role models: “Something I realized when I got to college and I found out about all these cool women engineers, whether I knew them personally or whether I read about them, I look up to them so much more now, and they really help inspire me as I continue on in my engineering education. My team members and I see first-hand how having strong role models helps when you pursue a higher education in engineering.”
Gaby’s biggest role models are Debbie Sterling, the creator of GoldiBlox, and Chinloo Lama, whom she met during her first internship at SOLIDWORKS in 2013. Gaby felt a connection with her not only because they’re both passionate about women in engineering, but also because of Chinloo’s background in art and design. “That’s a really big part of me as well, my art and design background. In high school I took a lot of art classes, and that really differentiates me from a lot of my peers in the engineering program. There are some artistic students as well, but a lot of my peers are more technical. I’ve always been on the more artistic side.”
Favorite fictional heroine: “My favorite Disney princess is Pocahontas. I’ve always been drawn to her self-confidence and self-assurance. She made choices not based on others’ opinions, but based on what she believed in her heart.”
Advice to girls wanting to enter the engineering field: “I think my main advice to any underclassmen is to step out of your comfort zone. The reason why I say this is because in high school I tended to stick to what I knew, what I was good at, and what I was interested in- if I listened to that portion of my gut, I would’ve just taken art classes. I wouldn’t have tried out drafting. I wouldn’t have tried out new things or talked to new people because I was so used to just staying in my comfort zone, staying with the friends that I could relate to.”
Have someone in mind? You can nominate the next recipient for the SOLIDWORKS Women in Engineering Program, honoring the outstanding achievements that women are accomplishing day to day in the engineering community. Find out more information or get started today!