5 Minutes with NANOGIRL

Kadimah School is introducing S.T.E.A.M., an educational system that integrates science, technology, engineering, art and maths. It is their vision is to inspire all of their students to develop their abilities to be creative critical thinkers and flexible problem solvers.


On Thursday 23 March there will be an introductory evening at the school, at which Dr. Michelle Dickinson (aka Nanogirl) will be the keynote speaker.


Verve caught up with Michelle just prior to going to print.


Michelle, please could you in briefly introduce yourself to Verve readers.


I’m an engineer specialising in fracture mechanics and nanotechnology — basically I love to break tiny things. Currently I am a senior lecturer in engineering at the University of Auckland. I also am the director of Nanogirl Labs, a social enterprise designed to make science and engineering more accessible to all New Zealanders.



Can you comment on the following: ”STEM is quite dull and boring on its own, but when you bring the arts in it develops the skills needed for future economies where left and right sides of the brain are working together.”? (Sir Ken Robinson)


First of all, as much as I love Sir Ken and his work, I just can’t agree with that statement — STEM is not at all dull and boring on its own, there are many of us who find it fascinating and are passionate about it. What I do agree with is how collaboration is crucial to success in all fields and so ensuring that projects are multidisciplinary and filled with diverse teams is really important.


Has every kid got the nous to engage and understand science, technology and maths?


Not only does every kid have the nous, but it’s also so important! The world is filled with science and technology, from the smartphone in your pocket to the medicine you take when you are sick; our modern lives are constantly being exposed to new inventions as we create new solutions to our problems. My big passion is to help young people to be creators of future technology not just consumers of it and to do that you need to understand how things work and what your strengths are.



What is creativity and do you think that it can be taught?


To me creativity is using your imagination to come up with new ideas to solve problems. All children are creative, just watch how they express what they are imagining when they play with something simple like a box. Somewhere as part of growing up we start to lose this creative capability as we silo our subjects and align to more rigid rules but I definitely think creativity can be nurtured through encouraging idea generation and allowing time for creative thinking.


Can you give some examples of art meets science, technology, engineering and maths?


Every piece of technology you buy now from your smartphone to your car is a combination of all of those disciplines; it’s what makes those products, smart, functional and desirable all at the same time.


The challenge is to nurture our youth and to see that they are surrounded by products that they love, and which required S.T.E.A.M. to make it to market; and to help them think about solving their problems in cross-disciplinary ways.