Lansing was privileged to host Michigan’s first-ever Maker Week and the Midwest’s first Startup Weekend: Maker Edition from Oct. 6 through 12. This week-long event provided an avenue for people to explore their inner maker, that passion to find or do something new and different. A line up of tours, hands-on projects and guest speakers in areas that included food and drink, textiles and apparel, and 3D printing, electronics and programming took place around the city, all organized by the Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP), along with a team of more than a dozen community partners.
One of the keynote speakers during Lansing Maker Week was Jennifer Marsman, Microsoft’s principal developer evangelist. Her humorous, yet thought-provoking presentation on “Hacking Tech” showed attendees that hackers are makers too, in that they can build something quickly or test the boundaries of what can be done. Marsman discussed some of Microsoft’s technology, including the Kinect sensor which is bringing immersive voice and gesture solutions to healthcare facilities, retail stores, public spaces and more. Marsman is not only a highly-accomplished tech evangelist, she’s also an active member of Michigan Girl Geek Meetups.
The catalyst for this Lansing-based group is Girl Geek Dinners, originally founded in 2005 by Sarah Lamb in London, England, whose aim it is to inspire a new generation of women technologists and support those who are presently in the industry. Groups meet all over the world with the mission to break down old fashioned social stereotypes, to identify routes around barriers to entry for anyone to get into technology, to encourage and nurture those interested in technology, to work with local schools, colleges and universities to encourage more women into technology, to support those currently in the industry and to include men, women and children in this journey.
Betsy Weber, chief evangelist at TechSmith, introduced Marsman, her fellow girl geek, at the Maker Week presentation. Weber, along with Jessica Knott, are the group’s co-founders.
“I travel around the world for my job and I’ve been going to (these dinners). I got to thinking, why do I have to go to Berlin or London or California to connect with my girl geeks, when they should be right in my backyard,” said Weber.
Weber says these monthly Girl Geek meetups are a place where women in tech can get together in a comfortable atmosphere and learn from each other. According to Weber, the mid-Michigan chapter is the only one in Michigan, and the next closest is in Chicago.
“We’ve built little robots, had activities, (invited) guests to talk about working in tech, and had dinners where we network and meet,” said Weber. “We’ve met at a variety of places like TechSmith and Lansing Maker’s Network. We move around to try to support local businesses.”
In the future, Weber says that her group, which has been in existence for two years, would like to get involved in local charities and more actively help foster the next generation of women in technology.
For more information or to get involved with the Michigan Girl Geek Meetups, visit their Facebook page at http://tinyurl.com/GirlGeeksLansing. To read more highlights from Lansing Maker Week, make sure to pick up a copy of the November issue of the Greater Lansing Business Monthly.