Girls in Tech
Mikayla Stokes didn’t have many female mentors to look up to when she first started getting interested in inventing, but that never phased her.
In fact, she’d say it was one of the things that drove her to succeed and ultimately become a mentor, herself, for other young girls interested in STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Art&Design and Mathematics).
It’s safe to say that she has made her mark as one to watch– and look up to– in the world of technology, engineering and inventing, even though along the way, she was often the “only girl in the room”. “That’s been me all the time,” says Mikayla. “Honestly, most of my friends in this [area of interest] are guys, and they are still supportive of me and what I do, so it honestly doesn’t make a difference if you are the only girl in the room.”
Being a female in the arena of STEAM just gives you a point of difference, Mikayla believes, which can work in your favour, helping you stand out and encouraging you to work extra hard and challenge yourself.
“[Being a female] is a real benefit sometimes, because if people ever doubt you, you’re going to prove them wrong. That’s something I’ve always done- if ever I’m told that I can’t do something, oh, I’m going to do it!”
Onwards and upwards
It’s that attitude that has seen Mikayla win the Skills Bright Sparks competition twice – once in 2016 and again, last year, in 2018.
Her 2016 invention was an app that monitored air pollution, while her 2018 winning entry was an automated vertical garden that could be controlled through a smartphone app, called My Vege Wall. The garden incorporates an automated hydroponics system which maintains the pH and nutrient levels of the plants.
Her attitude, her energy and her keenness to encourage other young women into STEAM have also caught the notice of others in the world of tech, engineering and inventing.
Her attitude, energy and keenness to encourage other young women into STEAM have also caught the notice of others in the world of tech, engineering and inventing.
Mikayla was asked to be in an event at TechWeek earlier this year where she and a panel of other women-in-tech discussed their own experiences to try to inspire other young women to get involved.
She’ll soon also be appearing in two TV shows, showcasing her ability to invent and solve problems using tech. One is a show with Joseph Herscher, the YouTube star of ‘Joseph’s Machines’.
“They were about to create a new show called What’s Your Problem?” says Mikayla. “It’s about solving kids’ problems with machines and inventions. They were looking for an inventor to help make the machines and I popped up [on their radar]. I now get to be a science communicator on TV, which is so cool.”
The second show is called Fanimals, which airs on kids’ channel HeiHei.
If Mikayla could highlight one female-in-tech that has inspired her along the way, she would say Nanogirl, AKA Michelle Dickinson.
“She has been really awesome,” says Mikayla. “She’ll agree to have coffee with me and just talk about everything in general. Finding a mentor can really help.”
She admits that it’s a bit of a shame that there aren’t more female role models out there. “But what I have done, I guess, is become a bit of a role model to others, so that they can see the very cool things you can do with tech. In five years, they could be like me, making inventions and awesome things with tech.”
“Because tech isn’t about boring things. It’s about solving problems.”