Sunday, March 13, 2016

She's Crafty - Sci Chic

I absolutely love the trend of blending science and engineering and girly items. Geeky jewelry, clothing, and hair accessories are just so flippin' awesome. It takes the tired old trope of science being a masculine pursuit and drops it in a box, sets it on fire, and sends it into outer space. All with a girly flair, of course.

So when I came across the amazing 3D printed jewelry from SciChic, I made an audible squealing noise from a place of pure glee. Fortunately, when I asked, Erin Winick, one of the two amazing young women who dreamed up this fantastic business, she agreed! We had a fabulous conversation, and now I admire her work even more.

Their APEX collection is launching on Pi Day (March 14), and judging by the items they've previewed, it will be a beautiful assortment of science and engineering themed pendants and rings. I can't wait to see them all.

SRPS: First of all, can you please tell me a little about yourself? What's your background? What inspires you?

EW: I grew up in Tampa, FL and have always loved to make things. I have loved everything from sewing to HotWheels to setting up Rube Goldberg machines all over my parents' house. I grew up in a family of teachers who promoted continuously learning.

The thing that inspires me most is communicating the importance of science and engineering to the general public. Some of the people I look up to most are Neil deGrasse Tyson, Bill Nye and the Mythbusters. I love finding new ways to do this, one of which has been through Sci Chic's products, our blog and our videos. I actually almost went in to the journalism field because I have a passion for telling stories, so I love being able to combine this passion with my love of making, science and engineering.

SRPS: I loved your vlog "A Life Shaped by Space." Why did you create that video? Is it weird I imagined you as a kind of Casey Newton from Tomorrowland when I watched it?

EW: Thanks so much! I have actually been wanting to make that video for a long time for a few reasons. First of all, I really admire my grandfather and the amazing projects he worked on (the Saturn V rocket and shuttle program) before I was born. I never got to meet him, so my engineering and science passions have always been a way for me to connect with his legacy. Making the video felt like a way to honor him even in a small way.

Also, I really wanted to get across to the rest of the world how important space has been for so many kids growing up in Florida. It is awesome growing up being able to walk outside and see a shuttle launch and feel your windows shake as a shuttle lands even being our 2 hours away from Kennedy Space Center.

And thanks about the Casey Newton comment. I'll take it!

SRPS: How did you and Emily Huber meet? What was that connection like?

EW: Emily and I actually met in our Mechanics of Materials class when a friend of mine was put into the same group as Emily. We hit it off very quickly and started hanging out together and working on class work together. I was also serving as President of the University of Florida's chapter of the Society of Women Engineers at the time and we got to know each other more at those events. Emily went on to serve as a VP and President of the section as well. We have enjoyed collaborating on SWE and Sci Chic things. We both have a passion for making and engineering and have had fun experimenting with 3D printing together.

SRPS: What inspired you to create Sci Chic?

EW: For me there is engineering in so much more than what most people realize. It isn't all bridges and rockets. Sci Chic is a way to show this.

While serving as President of UF SWE we started an event called 3D Printing Outreach Day. We brought 60 middle school girls to campus and taught them about 3D printing. I was inspired by seeing the intrigue and interest 3D printing and modeling sparked in the girls. Sci Chic serves as a way of creating this intrigue and interest in 3D printing and science and general in kids and the general population.

SRPS: I love this line from your blog: "science is an art form full of beauty." I couldn't agree more, but want to know what makes you say that? What's behind your connection between engineering and being crafty?

EW: Art is all about expression and so much of science is about expressing why and when things happen. This is done through pictures, patterns, words and data that when analyzed are honestly beautiful. Science can be methodic or sporadic. It can be surprising and intriguing. So can art. And science can be expressed through art.

The focus of engineering is solving problems and making something new. As a mechanical engineer I am always designing and building things. I believe the best mechanical engineers also have an element of craftiness. They are great at whipping up small prototypes and visualizing things in 3D.

SRPS: Can you give us a bit of a preview of what to expect when you launch your new collection later this month?

EW: Our new collection is called APEX and is launching on March 14 (Pi Day). The collection will consist of new designs and a lot of new options for all of our jewelry making it more customization. The designs will all be inspired by geometric in science and engineering. They will pull from molecules, meteorology, stress analysis and DNA.

The biggest highlights of the new options will be:

  • New material options (bronze, silver and 14K gold plated)
  • Size options, allowing customers to select small or large earrings and pendants
  • An add on allowing customers to get a personalized video showing the actual making of their item

SRPS: What's it been like to start seeing your work featured on big media sites like CNN Money?

EW: It has been crazy to be getting big media attention. It is fantastic to use it as a platform to spread science literacy and awareness of uses for technology like 3D printing. I love entrepreneurship and to be recognized for the hard work I have been putting in is pretty incredible. It is never something I would have expected to happen so quickly since we just launched in October of last year!

SRPS: So, you're graduating in December? How exciting is that?

EW: I am definitely both excited and nervous. It is a big step and I do not know what is coming for me after graduation right now, but I am extremely excited to figure it all out in the coming months! I love Sci Chic an cannot wait to see where it is at in December when I graduate. I definitely plan to continue working on Sci Chic, but whether I go all in and work on it full time right away is up in the air. Whatever I am doing I hope to work on innovative and entrepreneurial activities.

You can take a look at their jewelry on their website, and be sure to follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Google+, Pinterest, and YouTube.

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