Iraq's only female-led makerspace
If you visit our newly established Field Ready: Erbil Makerspace, housed in the Re:Coded House co-working space, you’ll find Ravin and Mariam leading our technical team, making it the only female led makerspace in Iraq!
Both are extremely talented young engineers. Ravin graduated top of her class in Industrial Engineering at Koya University and was one of seven engineers from the whole of Iraq selected to participate in the Mechanical Engineering Germany Iraq (MEGI) summer school in Freiburg University in Germany, while Mariam was co-founder of the pioneering 5E 3D printing and electronics start-up in Baghdad and in the winning team in Baghdad for the first National Iraq Hackathon.
They are working on a Field Ready project supported by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.
On International Day for Women in Engineering, June 23rd, we speak to them about what excited them about engineering and their roles with Field Ready:
When did you decide you wanted to be an engineer?
Mariam: As a child I liked playing with electricity and I liked making things! I decided from primary school I should be an engineer. Most people in my family are in medicine, my father wanted me to study medicine also, but I wanted to be an engineer. I started with electronics but switched to mechatronics because it was new topic and I really like robots!
Ravin: I wanted to be an engineer from primary also as I really liked drawing and I saw my Uncle working as an engineer. I also thought about architecture as I like design, but then I heard about the first year of the manufacturing engineering course, so I thought it would be really interesting to do a new course. I realized with manufacturing engineering you can design anything, not just houses, so you have a really wide field of work.
How did you think you would use your engineering degree?
Mariam: I wanted to work in robots and design. I didn’t think I’d be able to use robotics in Iraq as there isn’t an industry using it yet. So after graduating I worked as a lecturer and in a power plant in Baghdad.
Ravin: I really wanted to find a place related to manufacturing, in particular I wanted to be involved in design and material selection. I thought a factory would be the only place I could work. I actually wanted to start my Masters degree directly afterwards, but then I saw this opportunity with Field Ready.
What attracted you to Field Ready?
Mariam: I really wanted to work in a humanitarian organization and to help people. Also, I’m really in love with 3D design and 3D printers! I really wanted to opportunity to help other people learn about design, and see it’s benefits. I’d like all people in Iraq to be able to use this.
Ravin: I really like that you are using engineering to help people to make their own thing they need and support businesses. Instead of people always waiting for things from outside they can access here by creating themselves. There so few manufacturing places here, we don’t have a lot of products from Iraq, and so many young people are unemployed. I hope I can have a hand in changing that. I never thought there would be an organization outside a factory that uses my skills, and Field Ready actually allows me to use them more.
What do you want to do in the makerspace?
Mariam: I want to see the makerspace develop more and have a really big 3D printer, and an even bigger space! I’d like to work with all people, children and all people who are interested in the field. I’d also really like to help people with disabilities, in particular I’m interested in how we can 3D print artificial hands for people who can’t afford them.
Ravin: I want to see successful stories come of our makerspace, that people who used our makerspace were able to create their designs and so create their own businesses. I hope we can have small branches of the makespaces in other cities and smaller towns of Iraq, so other people get access to it.
For myself I want to do something which will make life easier for people with disabilities, you can see people face so many difficulties getting round the city. We can design things to make the life of those people with disabilities, and their careers, easier.
Do you have any advice for young girls who want to be engineers?
Mariam: If you want to study engineering you should, after graduating you can find a job. When I worked in a power plant I was the only female in hundreds, but more girls are studying engineering now.
Ravin: Don’t go for the field where there are 100,000s of graduates, they should try fields that are new, and not be intimidated. Nothing is impossible if you work on yourself. When I got high marks people were surprised, they asked the boys in my class how could they let a girl pass them, the boys didn’t feel good in my class! I definitely would encourage young girls to study engineering as they are the new generation. Things are getting better in Iraq generally and for women who want to be engineers.