Mikayla Stokes - Spreading the Word as Ambassador
Mikayla Stokes is so excited about the wide world of science and technology, she can’t stop telling everyone about it.
Which is what made her perfect for the role of Skills Bright Sparks Ambassador for 2019.
That, along with the fact that she has been a Skills Bright Sparks Overall Female Award winner – twice! – once in 2016 and again, last year, in 2018.
“I’m so happy to be an ambassador for Skills Bright Sparks because the competition has given me so much,” says Mikayla. “In terms of getting me into inventing and helping me create solutions to problems. That has been so awesome and I’m loving the opportunity to be able to go and share that with other people.”
And she’s not joking. Since winning Skills Bright Sparks Mikayla has been recognised in a number of forums as an up-and-coming science and technology inventor and been asked to speak to a number of groups – including joining the Inspiring Women in Tech panel at a recent TechWeek 2019 conference, encouraging young women to get involved in the STEAM (Science Technology, Engineering, Art&Design and Mathematics) industry.
And sharing her experiences with the world of science and technology hasn’t stopped there. Mikayla will soon be appearing on our screens as an inventor working with Jacob Herscher from Joseph’s Machines, a popular You Tube personality known for his chain-reaction machines.
“Because of all the media from Skills Bright Sparks, they got in touch because they were about to create their new show What’s Your Problem? about solving kids’ problems with machines and inventions,” says Mikayla. “And they were looking for an inventor to help make the machines and I popped up. So I now get to be a science communicator on TV, which is so cool!”
The show will be aired on TVNZ ad-free kids’ platform, Hei Hei, and on Joseph Herscher’s own YouTube channel.
“I am more of a robotics or invention expert on the show and I have a great part on it,” says Mikayla. “With some of the episodes I do small DIY examples of how to build smaller versions of machines, which is really cool.”
Mikayla is also soon to be seen on New Zealand TV screens on another show, Fanimals. Fanimals is a show about animals, that has nothing to do with tech but “they heard about me and they thought ‘let’s get Mikayla to make a robotic animal!’”
Both shows will be out towards the end of June.
All this activity 18-year-old Mikayla fits around her ‘day job’ – the first year of a fulltime Engineering degree at the University of Auckland.
Keeping it real
As the Ambassador for Skills Bright Sparks, and through all the other science and technology forums she now gets involved in, Mikayla is always really honest about her challenges as a school student, the fact she initially thought STEAM was “boring” and that she often thought she wasn’t good enough.
“I really understood what it felt like to not understand tech as a kid,” says Mikayla. “But I am so passionate about showing kids that you don’t need to know everything and be this genius who can make inventions. You just need to be able to solve a problem and be keen to research and test it out. It is all a learning experience making a project. You don’t need to know it all to be able to do it.
“So my purpose as an Ambassador for Skills Bright Sparks is to go around and talk to kids and encourage them. And every single time I talk to them, it is such a great outcome. I love it so much being able to do that.”
The 2019 Skills Bright Sparks competition will be open for entries from 26 August to 27 September so the crucial time for formulating an idea or getting a project underway, says Mikayla, is now.
“Bright Sparks gave me the ability to create products to solve people’s real problems,” says Mikayla. “Just give it a go, what’s the worst that could happen?”