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#OdySci Profile Day 4: Zee Kesler

As part of Science Odyssey, we are interviewing a variety of STEM innovators to investigate pathways into STEM and to discuss the future of STEM learning and careers.

Zee is a “Maker Educator” from Vancouver BC. She has been involved in the Maker Education Initiative since the first Vancouver Mini Maker Faire event 8 years ago. Zee is also the co-founder of the MakerMobile: a mobile hackspace and the Magic Trout Imaginarium: a mobile classroom in a tiny house where she host pro d workshops for teachers. Around the time she discovered she had a connective tissue disorder (Ehlers Danlos Syndrome), she started working for Neil Squire Society as part of an innovative initiative called Makers Making Change; a project started by the Neil Squire Society that pairs makers with people with disabilities to create assistive technologies. By crowd sourcing ideas and releasing projects open source, MMC creates community as well as affordable access to assistive technologies.

What sparked your interest and eventual career in STEM? 

I wasn't interested in STEM specifically, but became interested in exploring different mediums to explore art making during my university days. I studied Integrated Media arts at OCADU because I enjoying the style of exploratory hands on learning art school offered. I saw a lot of the grant funding was aimed at electronics and new media and thought it would be a fun way to explore art and contribute to innovative uses for new technologies 

What role does mentorship play in engaging youth in STEM?

A huge role. If a child can see how their own personal interests have elements of STEM in them, they are more likely to be curious about these subjects areas interact with the world. A good mentor can figure out how to make any subject interesting by figuring out what excites their student.

Did you have a mentor who supported you in your education/career pathway or otherwise?

I had quite a few teachers ask me really poignant questions about the art I was making, which lead me to question what I was trying to create with art. I realize it was a sense of connection and community, which is what lead me to work with Makers Making Change.

What did you want to be when you were a child?  Did you plan your current career path? 

I wanted to be in the circus, I think for similar reasons, I wanted to connect people through an amazing experience.

Tell us about your work with the Neil Squire Society. How does your job promote greater STEM learning or understanding?

Through my role I get to educate people about 3D printing, electronics and what disability professionals and engineers do in their jobs. I teach people who have never touched electronics how to build MMC's mouth controlled mouse (The LipSync) in an afternoon, which they then get to give to a person with a disability in their community to improve their quality of life. I get to educate people on how crowdsourcing, the maker movement and open source is changing how we make and distribute assistive devices.

What do you think the future of STEM looks like in BC?

More community involvement and excitement around education in and outside of schools!

What is Science World’s role in promoting and supporting STEM learning and careers in BC?

Making it fun and accessible to children and their care givers.

What is the Neil Squire Society’s Makers Making Change? Makers Making Change is a new, non-profit initiative by the Neil Squire Society, funded by the Google Foundation, the Government of Canada, and the Vancouver Foundation. We’re committed to creating an international community of makers who support people with disabilities within their communities by creating accessibility solutions. We stand by the idea of social inclusion and a productive society that includes people with disabilities and gives them equal opportunity to contribute and participate.

Come visit Science World at the #BCTECH Summit today for hands-on activities and mentorship opportunities! You can also check out the LipSync Build-a-thon with Neil Squire Society at #BCTECH Summit. Investigate more at home or school with the Scratch Programming Series: X and Y Coordinates from Science World Resources.