Overcoming imposter syndrome at Kogan Makerweek
*This blog post was originally posted on October 24, 2020.
One of the things I enjoy about my Interaction Design program is that it’s medium agnostic. We apply the design process not just to software interfaces but also to physical products that use micro-controllers to printed toolkits and their mobile app counterparts.
So when I got an email from a Corcoran staff member relaying information about Kogan Makerweek, I decided to sign up. Kogan Makerweek is an interactive platform for inspiring impact-driven innovation within the GW community that helps attendees explore the role of the technology used for innovation. It also helps attendees develop and improve their skills for hackathons and leverages attendee creative thinking by tackling its innovation challenges. The event is sponsored by George Hacks, a university organization that partners with GW’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship. It also has a close affiliation to the School of Engineering and Applied Science due to its founders and members.
Since I’m a Design student, there were definitely some imposter syndrome feelings that bubbled up when thinking about attending these virtual events with engineering students.
Since I’m a Design student, there were definitely some imposter syndrome feelings that bubbled up when thinking about attending these virtual events with engineering students. However, thinking thoughts like, “I’m here to learn something new, so it’s OK that I don’t know the same things as everyone else” and “Maybe I can offer a different perspective since I’m in design and not in engineering or CS” helped me overcome some of my initial nervousness. And I’m glad I did! I learned so much. Here are some takeaways:
1. Seriously! Do not let your imposter syndrome keep you from trying something new.
This is the most important takeaway of this experience. If I had listened to my initial thoughts about not being the “right kind” of person to attend Makerweek, I would never have gone. Those thoughts are definitely bullshit, and I’m learning to counteract them by leaning into thinking about what I could learn if I put myself out there and how I can provide a new perspective.
2. Despite being online and remote, Makerweek reminded me of being at a conference. Good job to the organizers!
The Discord Channel we used was organized and was updated frequently. Seeing the online attendees on the right side of the screen felt like seeing name tags at events. Clicking on the different channels on the left-hand panel was like stepping into a new room at a conference and being surrounded by conversation around a new and interesting topic. I could share images and videos I had made of my projects in their respective channels as if I was live and in person at a conference. We were also incentivized to share our projects on social media through a scavenger hunt. I thought it was such a great way to garner more engagement and buzz.
I also appreciated the convenience. The event was spread out over days instead of jam packed to one day and they were all recorded. I was able to participate in all of the events I wanted instead of missing an event at a conference because two interesting ones were double-booked. The organizers also sent event prizes and workshop supplies to attendees via mail.
I really enjoyed this convenient and equally engaging format and wonder how else it could be applied.
3. The DIY activities and workshops taught me about technology in a simplified and accessible way.
Instead of lecturing attendees on the intricacies of circuits and batteries, Kogan Makerweek organizers taught these concepts through DIY activities and workshops. I participated in the Coin Battery, Electric Play-doh, and Circuits Workshops. Learning by doing was far more engaging than passively hearing about the concepts.
For instance, for the Electric Play-doh activity, we used flour, water, salt, lemon juice, and oil to make conductive play-doh. I threaded the ends of a loaded battery clip through the two separated pieces of Play-doh and inserted the nodes of an LED into the appropriate ball of dough. The dough acted as a resistor and since it was conductive, the light turned on. And since I’m a design student and a very visual person, what better way to test my understanding of circuits than by using them to light up some figurines. I stuck an LED through a Jack-o-lantern made of my conductive play-doh for a Halloween themed scene.
Peep the Big Hero 6 mug!
I also did a workshop on creating a battery out of copper coins, foil, and lemon juice and a workshop on circuits and coding, building, and simulating an Arduino in TinkerCAD.
Also for anyone interested and wants to practice, here's an interesting design challenge from the organizers of the Arduino workshop:
This event was very well executed! Going forward, I’m excited to see how events can be moved into an online space to share new ideas in a hands-on manner. In the future, I’ll also be slower to say I don’t belong at an event.