Danielle Boyer taught her first STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) class when she was ten years old. After she found a pack of animal puppets while shopping, Danielle put together a short curriculum for a kindergarten-level animal science class. “I made the coloring sheets myself, I taught the kids, I read to them, I had activities planned,” she recalled, laughing. “Once I remembered that class, I realized I’ve been doing this a lot longer than I thought I had been.”
“This” is helping kids learn, specifically about STEAM concepts. Danielle is an eighteen-year-old educator and FIRST Robotics mentor. Last year, she and the Every Kid Gets A Robot project were featured in the SOLIDWORKS Women in Engineering series. Since then, she’s graduated high school and taken a gap year. Her focus is on the many, many robotics teams she mentors, the students she teaches, and building a sustainable STEAM community outside of Detroit, MI. I called her to catch up on her life and learn more about her experience as a SOLIDWORKS student. I ended up discovering not only her student journey, but her teaching journey as well.
Home schooled until her sophomore year of high school, Danielle became interested in robotics at a young age. After discovering the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition, she became heavily involved with her team and started to learn CAD. She actually began learning design with other CAD products. “Then I saw SOLIDWORKS on YouTube and saw how cool it was,” she said. Danielle had many friends from school and her robotics team who used SOLIDWORKS, so it wasn’t difficult for her to find a computer that allowed her to use CAD. She originally taught herself how to use SOLIDWORKS with YouTube tutorials, but now she uses MySOLIDWORKS and the SOLIDWORKS website. Danielle has been a SOLIDWORKS user for five years, and she is also studying to get SOLIDWORKS certified during her gap year.
Danielle uses SOLIDWORKS all the time: as a FIRST mentor, as a designer, as a STEAM teacher, and as a member of the SOLIDWORKS User Group Network (SWUGN). She helps teach students of all ages design and engineering concepts with the 3D printed parts in the blue box she totes to all of her classes. By showing parts, rather than a robot as a whole, Danielle is able to teach her kids to think like designers. “I want them to understand what the different parts are, why something is the shape that it is,” she said. “Then I’ll have them model their part.” Young students model with SOLIDWORKS Apps for Kids, while students in middle school and up use SOLIDWORKS.
“I want to show how SOLIDWORKS is being actively used by students to help better the community,” Danielle explained. Teaching SOLIDWORKS to her students and getting friends her age involved with STEAM classes is important to her: Danielle wants to build sustainable STEAM resources, and starting with the community around her is the best place to begin. Most of Danielle’s FIRST friends are well versed in CAD, but getting them interested in SOLIDWORKS Apps for Kids was also important to her, because she sees it as a great, accessible tool to teach kids how to think like designers and engineers.
Danielle does much more than just teaching. In the past year, she’s mentored and assisted thirty-five FIRST teams, while starting seventeen new ones. She started an organization called The STEAM Connection, with the goal of being a sustainable and consistent resource to the global STEAM community through accessible education. She created a series of coloring books to teach children STEAM concepts without a language barrier halting their learning experience. She spoke at SOLIDWORKS World 2019 in Dallas, and has so many other plans for the future.
Danielle’s passion for STEAM education shows in everything she does, in every word she speaks. But even with all of her projects, and there are many of them, Danielle remains grounded. While her aspirations are sky high, her ability to plan, communicate, and collaborate are what make them achievable. And her commitment to sustainability is what makes her effective. Learn more about Danielle’s many undertakings in Part Two: STEAM Connections.