This ballerina and beauty pageant contestant gave a speech about Why Women Should NOT Be Engineers.

And that makes her an epic ambassador for STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.

Will your students disagree? Read on!

Read the Non-Fiction Article:
Ballet, Beauty, and Being Girly

Naomi McGregor started ballet when she was four years old. She competed in the Miss Northern Ireland beauty pageant. Also, McGregor gave a TEDx talk. She talked about why girls should not be engineers. In other words, McGregor is a great ambassador. She’s a role model for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).

Sometimes, McGregor speaks at STEM events. She talks to young students. Their first guess is that she is a teacher or a pop star. Actually, McGregor is the CEO and founder of a company called Movetru. Movetru is an innovative tech startup. That means they invent new technology. Very few kids want to become engineers at the start of her speech. But McGregor shares her story and experience. In the end, she asks the class who is interested in STEM. Many young girls and boys raise their hands.

Movetru is a tech startup that has won awards. Their idea is to invent smart clothing to sell at stores. We live in a world of smartphones and smart homes. Their idea is groundbreaking. Their product could help reduce physical injuries. Movetru dreams of being in everyone’s home. One day, they want to be as common as a smartwatch. But first, the company has to create a “minimum viable product.” That means a product with a few features to prove the idea can work.

Many movement-based injuries are caused by physical stress or repetitive actions. But this type of injury can be preventable. MoveTru’s clothing line would look cool. The athletic clothes would fit well. It would be close to your skin. It would almost be like a second skin. There would be a set of sensors put into the fabric. As you move, the sensors would send motion data to your smartphone. The app would then show you areas of growing concern based on how you move. These areas could be problem spots. Maybe some of your muscles and bones are getting stressed. What if you change your physical activities? You could talk with a coach or physiotherapist. Perhaps you do some prehabilitation exercises. These are exercises you do before you get hurt. If specific muscles get stronger, you might not get an injury. (Rehabilitation is the opposite. Rehabilitation exercises help you get better after you get hurt.)

McGregor was 14 years old and working towards a career in ballet when she hurt her knee. She asked eight different specialists for help. It took over three years before they could finally figure out the problem. Experts told her she would never be able to dance again. However, McGregor found a way to keep going. She continued practicing and teaching ballet. Her love of ballet was a big influence in her life.

“It taught me how to be creative, how to work in a team, how to stand on a stage. Most importantly, ballet taught me resilience and grit – that nothing is perfect, that hard work and repetition is the only way to succeed, that failure is only temporary.”

If only the technology McGregor is inventing right now was around when she was a teen. Her life might be different. Maybe today, she would be a professional dancer! “My injury could have been prevented in the first place; and let alone prevented, if I then invested after my injury, I could have actually had a rehabilitation time a whole lot shorter. Allowing my body to recover at a faster speed at such a young age would have been fundamental.”

Innovation means coming up with new goods and services that you can sell. Movetru might be a game-changer. Why? Well, right now, physiotherapists diagnose physical injuries. They also give you exercises to rehabilitate and recover. Their goal is to help you improve. Sometimes they help with ongoing aches. They can also help you recover from intense injuries. Movetru clothing is a brand-new tool. It would collect motion data. Right now, physiotherapists can only use what they see and what patients tell them to figure out what is wrong. But the Movetru app would give them a new option. The Movetru app would show movement data in a brand new way. This could help physiotherapists make decisions.

There are so many exciting possibilities! But first, Movetru needs to make a product to sell. So they are focusing their efforts on just one idea. Right now, their first product is for elite athletes. Movetru wants to help them recover from injury. The company received some funding to pay for startup costs. But the money won’t last long. Movetru must prove the business can work. If it does work, then they can focus on working on helping other people.

McGregor thinks it’s essential to be more than one thing. That’s the point of her TEDx talk. The title of her talk is “Why Women Shouldn’t Be Engineers.” The idea for the title comes from something a person told her while at work. This person said to her that women shouldn’t be engineers.

“Looking back, I find myself agreeing. Women shouldn’t be engineers because there is no such thing as just an engineer. There is no box or stereotype that confines the creative capabilities of STEM. There, the mathematician can be a baker, the artist can be a scientist, and this ballerina can be an engineer. It is not one or the other but a beautiful combination of both.”

McGregor finished high school. She wanted to go to university. At first, she chose business. But something felt wrong. It didn’t get her excited. At the last moment, she switched to engineering.

University was not easy. A lot of people encourage girls to go into STEM. There are scholarships for girls to study science, technology, engineering, or mathematics. But you don’t often hear how isolating and hard STEM can be. Engineering is an industry that can discriminate against girls. For the first few years, McGregor’s grades dropped. She wasn’t motivated. Why would she ask questions in class to help her learn? She already felt singled out. It’s hard being one of the only girls there.

“Whenever I was in university, jokes are made about being female; jokes are made that – you don’t talk about dance in front of other people. And I just don’t accept that. Let’s encourage freedom of any hobbies that somebody has.”

At university, McGregor kept going. She continued to practice and teach ballet. She studied hard. Things were tough, but she didn’t give up. One day, she decided to apply for a scholarship. McGregor filled out her application thinking like an engineer. She wasn’t accepted. The following year, she applied for the same scholarship. This time, she wrote the application by being her true self. She was someone who loved two opposite things: arts and engineering. This time, she got in.

McGregor was doing a Master’s in Product Design Engineering. She had to write a dissertation for her degree. A dissertation is a long research essay. McGregor was inspired by her ballet background. She wondered why there wasn’t a better way to recover from injury. She did some research. It turns out there isn’t a lot published about ballet and engineering. But from this research grew an idea. What if there was a product that could measure body movement? You could provide high-quality data to specialists. This tool could help them to figure out what was wrong quickly. This idea could go beyond ballet; it could apply to any sport or even to everyday life.

McGregor graduated from engineering. She had a job lined up, but she turned it down. She wanted to see what could become of her idea. If Movetru is successful, it could change what we wear. One day, you and I might be wearing smart clothing. That smart clothing could help us avoid preventable injuries.

“I call myself a girly girl engineer. I used to believe this was a negative that should be hidden. Then, I started to realize that when I was authentic, it worked. We have to be ourselves, be unique, and embrace what makes us us.”

Sometimes, McGregor’s ballet students say they need to put school first. “The 15 year old doing exams would say, ‘Oh well, I have to put my academics first.’” McGregor remembers when people told her the same thing.

“But, if I didn’t dance as much and I gave up my dance, I wouldn’t be in the position of owning my own business right now. So, I just think you really don’t know how much benefit it is to keep a diverse mindset, a diverse friendship group, a diverse network… and just using all parts of your brain. So, your academic side, your creative side – it just allows you to be more open to opportunity.”

McGregor is successful today because she likes both sides of her life. She enjoys ballet and engineering. She’s okay with being academic and creative. Ballet and engineering seem to be opposites. But, joining these opposites helps McGregor to develop ideas. These ideas are creative and innovative. The ideas are new, and that helps society move forward. They also inspire the next generation of people who will change the world. 

Being Girly from an SEOT perspective

We can learn a lot of life lessons from this story. McGregor calls herself a girly girl engineer. That’s because she loves being a ballerina and an engineer. Let’s break apart the story. Let’s explore how to become more creative and innovative.

TINKERING IDEA: Embrace different life experiences

We often get trapped in one identity. We start to think of ourselves as one thing. As adults, usually, it’s our job that defines us. I am a teacher. I am a musician. I am an accountant. I am a manager.

It’s also easy for students to get grouped as well. He’s a good student. She’s an athlete. They’re the class clown. How people see us and how we see ourselves can trap us. We might change and start acting in a certain way to live up to our reputation. This is called a self-fulfilling prophecy. We might begin to believe our reputation is who we really are deep down inside. We might start to think that some people are good at reading, and some aren’t, and that’s the way it is. But, of course, growth mindset research suggests that we can continually improve. We can get better if we take action. We can try new strategies. We can learn from experiences. We can put in the effort.

McGregor was a ballet dancer. She was also an engineer. She won a scholarship when she was her true self. Ballet and engineering can seem very different. McGregor holds on to both sides of her world. Her business idea came by mixing her ballet life and her engineering life.

It’s important to have a lot of different experiences. This gives us more life memories to think about when we try to solve problems. Finding new solutions to problems is easier if you have more dots to connect. Each hobby and interest you do is like adding a new dot. Doing different things can help you come up with new ideas. You might not be able to see these new ideas if you only focus on one part of your life.

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