KiraKira & Amy Poehler's Smart Girls

We loved speaking with the team at Amy Poehler's Smart Girls this week!

Autodesk and KiraKira team up for a 3-D design pop-up shop in San Francisco’s Ghirardelli Square


According to its website, the name KiraKira means ‘shimmering’ like a star in Japanese. While teaching people to reach for the stars, the company stands behind a mission to increasingly close the gender gap in STEM through art and design. Which is how the collaborative project of the KiraKira Open Maker Studio was born. From May through the end of the year, the Open Maker Studio will be available to young makers to participate in workshops focused on teaching engineering software, 3D printing, 3D scanning, laser-cutting and “Fashioneer” concepts.

The studio will focus on programs for girls ages 8–17 but will also offer an interactive in-store experience for users of all ages to learn within minutes how to create 3D models on their phones and print their own designs-such as custom iPhone cases, jewelry, skateboards and more.

Mary Hope McQuiston, vice president of Autodesk Education Experiences commented, “with women making up only 12 percent of today’s engineers, KiraKira’s work is more important than ever. KiraKira’s engaging, hands-on projects, coupled with its network of female advisors, helps cultivate creativity and inspire the next generation of designers and innovators.”

And a few of the amazing women involved in this project are Smart Girl Sarah O’Rourke, Autodesk’s Youth Audience Strategist, Suz Somersall, CEO and founder of KiraKira and Marissa Lucero, founder of My Fashion Design Kit, a fashion design course. For part of the programming, KiraKira’s 3D Jewelry Design and 3D Printing course will teach students how to use Autodesk’s Tinkercad and Fusion 360 software. And Marissa Lucero, who will be an instructor, will be using fashion as a means to teach math and engineering.

Sarah O’Rourke from Autodesk, photo provided by M Booth Public Relations

“I think that what the KiraKira team is doing is bringing the A into STEM…and for many young girls-and boys-they have a creative side in them that science and technology doesn’t always connect easily with. Bringing in something like fashion…everyone likes to express themselves with clothing or footwear or jewelry, that expression is so vital. Blending that and taking it to a whole other level, it also exposes them to things they’re not even aware of.” Sarah O’Rourke tells Smart Girls that KiraKira is putting STEM application into a real world context and really explores the fashion industry as a whole, which is inspiring. She firmly believes that learning how to be a fashion engineer or “fashioneer” is empowerment for these young girls.

Suz Somersall, CEO/Founder of KiraKira, photo provided by M Booth Public Relations

Suz Somersall declares her teenage self to have been a nerd, telling Smart Girls that her parents gave her dollhouses and she made starship control panels to put on top. But she loved building things and when she got to college she realized how few women were in the engineering program at Brown and veered towards Art Design. A path she continued in her graduate program at RISD. She soon met other women who were interested in learning to use Autodesk software but she noticed that the classes available for them were not very creative or helpful for real world application and she decided to change that by launching her own way of teaching.

When it comes to girls possibly feeling intimidated by the STEM/STEAM fields, Suz expresses, “I just want to get them excited, so I would love to tell them that if there’s something you can imagine? You can make it.”

And as for advice for her 12 year old self? Suz says she’d tell herself to not be afraid of changing her path. “To be ok with trying anything,” because in her opinion, when you allow the chance to diverge off your original path, that’s when you can truly find yourself.

For more info on the pop-up shop and to learn how to sign up for classes online or in the Bay area, go here!