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[ Background sounds ]
[ Applause ]
>> Debbie Sterling:
I'd like you all
to close your eyes.
Closed? Okay.
Now, you can't see me right now;
but I'm actually riding a
unicycle, juggling hundreds
of balls.
>> [laughter]
>> Debbie Sterling: No.
Keep your eyes closed though.
It's really great.
But okay. So close your eyes,
and picture an engineer.
Every got a picture
in their head?
Nod. Okay.
Open your eyes.
Raise your hand
in you pictured a guy sitting
alone at a computer.
Okay. Maybe kind of nerdy,
pocket protector.
Raise your hand
if you pictured a train driver.
>> [laughter]
>> Debbie Sterling:
That's a lot of hands.
Raise your hand
if you pictured a young guy
in a hoodie,
maybe looks a little
like Mark Zuckerburg perhaps.
Raise your hand
if you pictured someone
who looks like me.
Okay. Not a lot of hands.
Well, if you didn't raise your
hand for me, I would like you
to please get up and leave.
>> [laughter]
>> Debbie Sterling: No,
just kidding.
If you didn't raise your hand
for me, it's all right.
I get it all the time.
Usually when I tell people I'm
an engineer, they look at me
and they say, "No, really,
what do you do"; or they look
at me and say, "Oh, whoa,
you must be some kind
of genius"; or my favorite is
when I told my mother I wanted
to major in engineering,
she said, "Ewe, why?"
>> [laughter]
>> Debbie Sterling:
The truth is I'm a female
engineer, and I'm a minority.
Only 11 percent of engineers
in the U.S. are women.
So why does this matter?
Why do we care.
So what. Let's just have the men
do all the engineering.
Well, engineers are making some
of the biggest advances
in our society.
They're solving things
like global warming,
making medical breakthroughs,
some of the biggest technologies
that are changing our lives.
These are things
that we use every day as people
that make our lives better.
And with half the population
being female,
we deserve to have the
female perspective.
It will only get better
with the female perspective.
But today engineering really is
a boys club, and I don't fit in.
But I'm here today
to share my story
about how I discovered a passion
for engineering, and I'm here
to make a bold claim:
I don't fit in, but I believe
that our little girls will.
So this is me
when I was a little girl,
age six.
I was a pretty normal kid.
I loved ballet and drawing
and riding bikes.
I grew up in a small town
in Rhode Island, age six.
Coincidentally,
this is around the age
where most girls start
to lose an interest in math
and science, this young.
And it's interesting,
some people think, well,
biologically maybe girls just
aren't as good as those subjects
and that's just the way it is,
you can't fight nature.
Well, there was a study done
very recently
across 65 countries
around the world
where they tested boys and girls
on the same science test.
Around the world the girls
out-performed the boys,
but not in the U.S. What the
study suggests is
that it's not a
biological thing.
This is a cultural thing.
And this is our culture.
This is what we grow
up in as girls.
The toy aisle,
the perfect example
of our culture,
where we are taught
from a very young age
that we want
to become princesses.
I remember when I was a little
girl, adults would pat me
on the head --
well, actually I come
from a Jewish family;
so they would grab me
by the punim and say, "Debbie,
you are so smart, good for you."
And I remember
as a little girl being
so disappointed,
wishing that they told me I
was pretty.
I wanted to be pretty.
I didn't want to be smart.
And by the time my senior year
of high school rolled around,
I was applying to college;
and I asked my math teacher
to write my
recommendation letter.
And she said, "Okay, Debbie,
well, what do you plan
to major in?
I will write it in the letter."
And I said, "I don't know."
She said, "How
about engineering?
I think you would really excel
in it."
And I thought, engineering.
I closed my eyes --
>> [laughter]
>> Debbie Sterling:
And I pictured a train driver.
>> [laughter]
>> Debbie Sterling:
I had no idea what engineering
was, and I was way too
embarrassed to ask her.
I didn't want to sound stupid.
But I thought, "Yuck, no way,
ewe, engineering.
That's for boys.
It's intimidating and boring.
And why would she ever think
that a creative, artistic girl
like me would ever
like engineering.
No way." But I went off
to Stanford,
which was a big deal.
In my high school they actually
announced it
over the loud speaker.
>> [laughter]
>> Debbie Sterling:
And when I got
to Stanford my freshman year,
I had no idea what to major in.
And that --
that message
that that math teacher had said,
"Engineering,
you should give it a try,"
it stuck in my head.
And so I thought, what the heck,
I'm going to take ME101,
just give it a try
because I couldn't shake
that advice
that she had given me.
And I was so worried
that it was going
to be my first F. I was
terrified, but I went
into the class;
and in that class I finally
learned what engineering
really was.
And to my surprise,
we weren't fixing train engines.
>> [laughter]
>> Debbie Sterling:
In that class we got to invent
and design things.
We had assignments
like make a catapult
out of a soda bottle and a piece
of string and five paper clips
and a piece of foam core.
It was so cool and so much fun.
And in that class,
I learned that engineering is
really the skill set
to build anything you dream
up in your head,
whether it's a website
or a mobile app to a bridge,
to a highway, anything.
That's what engineers build.
And what an amazing skill set.
How empowering to be able
to build whatever you want.
But the problem was I felt kind
of alone.
I was always one of a handful
of girls in my classes,
and I did not fit in.
In fact, only 20 percent
of undergraduate degrees
in engineering and tech
and science are awarded
to women; so it's a
real problem.
But I stuck with it.
I loved the major,
and I wanted to do it.
That is, until I took an
engineering drawing class.
This was about halfway
through my major;
and I thought engineering
and drawing, this is going
to be great.
I love art.
Finally, I'm going
to get to draw.
The problem was
in this class you had to draw
in perspective, draw in 3-D;
and for some reason I had this
total mental block.
I was really struggling
with the material.
And our final assignment we had
to put our drawings
up on the wall for critique.
And you could tell, all the guys
in the class --
there were about 80 of them
and five of us girls --
the guys had scribbled their
drawing ten minutes before
and slapped it up on the wall.
Meanwhile, I had spent hours the
entire weekend.
I didn't even go
to any parties working
on my drawing.
And when the professors went
around the room and they got
to my drawing, they took a look
at it; and they looked
out into the room.
And they said, "Raise your hand
if you think Debbie should pass
this class."
And I just stood there beet red,
humiliated, looking around.
Some people are kind
of half raising their hands.
I was horrified.
And they're like, "Come on,
raise your hand
if you think Debbie should pass
the class."
The room was silent.
Finally, my good friend piped up
and said, "How dare you.
How dare you humiliate her
in front of this room.
She, obviously, has put a lot
of effort in;
and it's your responsibility
to teach her,
not to make fun of her."
Well, I'm glad he said that;
but even still,
the tears were streaming
down my face.
And I ran out of the classroom
and I thought,
this isn't for me.
I'm not naturally good
at this stuff,
maybe I should just give
up engineering.
A lot of girls around this time
in their college career think
the same thing.
But my friend came out,
and he said, "Debbie,
don't give up.
You can do it,
and I'll help you.
We just have
to work hard together.
You'll pick up this stuff.
I know you will.
So him and I used to go
from that moment
on to the library;
and sometimes we'll be there
until three, four,
in the morning studying.
And in that library I saw all
of those guys from my classes,
the guys who I thought just knew
it and it was so easy for them.
They it were there
at the library at three
in the morning.
I caught them.
[laughter]
>> [laughter]
>> Debbie Sterling:
And I realized that it's not
about being a born genius,
it's about how hard you work.
This stuff takes a lot of work.
But I worked really hard,
and I re-did that drawing;
and I earned my degree.
Years later I did some research
into this stuff,
and I actually learned
that I was at a disadvantage.
Like a lot of other girls,
I had underdeveloped
spatial skills.
The other interesting thing
that I learned is that kids
who score better
on spatial skills tests grew
up playing with
construction toys.
Well, I thought isn't this
a shame.
Me and my little sister growing
up, our parents never bought us
Legos or erector sets
or Lincoln logs.
We all thought
that those were boys toys.
I thought, those toys have been
marketed to boys
for over a hundred years.
And they get them interested
in math and science.
Meanwhile, all we get are the
dolls and makeup kits;
and it's not fair.
So I thought, well,
I'm an engineer now.
I have a degree.
I can make anything I want now.
I'm going to make an engineering
toy for girls, and I'm going
to give them the opportunity
that I didn't have
so that they can discover a
passion for engineering much
earlier than I did.
So I got to work.
I quit my job; and I worked
out of my apartment for months,
making a prototype
out of thread spools
and wooden dowels,
pieces I could find
from the hardware store.
I wanted to find a way
to help girls develop their
spatial skills.
I did all of this research.
I met with little girls,
and I found something
really interesting.
I'd buy construction toys
and watch them play with them
to see how they could be
improved; and time
and time again the girls would
get bored with the toys.
And so I would say, "Well,
what is your favorite toy?"
And they would run upstairs
and they would bring back
down a book; and they'd say,
"I love reading.
Let's read together."
So I came up with a really
simple aha idea:
What if I put those two
things together.
Spatial plus verbal,
a construction set plus stories.
And what if those stories were
about a girl engineered
character named Goldie Blocks.
And as she goes on adventures,
she solves problems
by building simple machines.
And so the girls read along,
and they get to build
with Goldie; and it would bring
in a role model,
and it would bring
in the narrative
that they so loved.
I -- I made this prototype,
and I went around the Bay Area
testing it on hundreds of kids;
and it worked.
I had little girls
in tutus building belt drives.
>> [laughter]
>> It was awesome.
And I -- I knew I was
on to something.
So I had all
of these ram shackled prototypes
in my apartment;
and I had working for months
like a hermit, not showering.
And a friend of mine said,
"Debbie, do you want
to take this to the next level?
Do you trust me?"
I said, "Yeah, yeah."
"Do you trust me?"
I'm like, "Okay.
We're not in a movie.
What are you talking about?"
He said you need to apply
to this tech
accelerator program.
It is the most elite program
in Silicon Valley.
All the top engineers
around the world vie
for a position in this program.
You need to apply.
So I applied,
and I got into the big interview
day; and I walked into a room
of Mark Zuckerburgs sitting
there on their computers.
Meanwhile, me walking in,
the chick with the
physical prototype.
>> [laughter]
>> Debbie Sterling:
And I had a napkin
over it because, obviously,
I had to protect my
intellectual property.
>> [laughter]
>> Debbie Sterling:
And so I'm walking in there;
and gosh, do I not fit in.
>> [laughter]
>> Debbie Sterling:
And one of the guys pipes up
and says, "Oh,
did you bring us cookies?"
>> [laughter]
>> Debbie Sterling: Well,
my confidence was pretty shot;
and needless to say, I --
I didn't get
into the accelerator.
They didn't understand why
on Earth I would add a book.
So -- they didn't get it.
[laughter].
But I didn't give up.
So I brought my prototype
to the New York toy fair.
It's the international biggest
toy show in the U.S.
And I thought, okay, this is it.
I'm going to go,
I'm going to show toy
industry veterans.
I'm going to talk
to store owners
and see what they have to say
about my engineering toy
for girls.
And I walked
in there thinking toy fair is
going to be awesome.
There's going
to be all these creative types,
mad scientists,
kids running around,
it's going to be so cool.
It was a bunch
of old men in suits.
I don't fit in.
Come on. I got
through engineering,
and now this.
So I showed people my prototype;
and they all kind of looked
at me with pity.
And they --
they whispered me a well-known
industry secret:
Construction toys
for girls don't sell.
And they took my by the arm,
and they showed me what does
sell, the pink aisle.
And they said this is the way it
is; and so we've come
full circle.
And I felt pretty dejected
after that toy fair,
but I wasn't willing to give up.
Just because this is the way
things are doesn't mean it's how
they have to be.
And so I took my prototype.
I partnered with a factory,
and I turned it into a real toy.
The thing was the factory
minimum order was 5,000 toys;
and with all of this rejection,
I didn't know
if people were going to want it;
so I put it up on Kickstarter.
I had a goal of raising $150,000
in 30 days to make this toy
a reality.
I -- I hit go.
I crossed my fingers,
and I hit my goal in four days.
>>
[ Applause ]
>> And our minimum production,
it didn't end
up being 5,000 units.
It ended up being over 20,000.
I had stores calling from all
over the world saying my
customers are coming in,
they want Goldie Blocks.
What is this Goldie Blocks?
I had parents calling in saying,
yes, my daughter is more
than just a princess.
>> [laughter].
>> Debbie Sterling:
I had the press writing articles
all about it.
The world was waiting for this.
They wanted this.
The toy industry had it wrong.
Yeah, sure,
some girls like princesses
and tiaras, and --
and I like that stuff too,
but there's so much more
to us than that.
There's so much potential.
And for me,
I couldn't be more happy
to be putting my engineering
skills into this product
because it leverages not only
the math and science
that I worked so hard to learn,
but also leverages
my creativity.
And engineering is
such a creative thing,
and I never knew it.
And it's so fun for me to get
to use my creative voice
and my artistic skills as a part
of engineering.
And it's so important
that we include
that perspective.
And the other thing that's
so great about it is engineering
is for people.
We're designing things
for people.
So how fun for me to get
to spend my time playing
and learning with little girls
and understanding what their
needs are and designing things
for them.
It couldn't be more rewarding.
Our toys are now hitting the
doorsteps of thousands of girls
around the world.
I just got an email from a mom
who said, "We love playing
Goldie Blocks.
My four and a half year hold
halfway through the game looked
at me and said, 'Mommy,
am I an engineer?
And her mom said, 'Yes, sweetie,
you can be.
You can be anything.'"
For so long, for so many years,
I felt like I didn't fit in;
but now I feel
like I belong here.
I feel like I belong,
and our little girls do too.
Thank you.
[ Applause ]
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【TEDx】啟發女性工程師的下一個世代 (Inspiring the next generation of female engineers: Debbie Sterling at TEDxPSU)

10348 分類 收藏
阿多賓 發佈於 2014 年 3 月 6 日
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