When Art and Science Get Together for Good – My First Makerlab

I am super enthusiastic about using art and technology for storytelling and advocacy but I sometimes feel that I don’t quite have the skills to bring my ideas to life by myself.

Although, I’m part of a Maker’s movement in Nigeria, I always stayed on the side of strategy and documentation and so when my colleague, Oba, the founder of Vilsquare Makerlab, recommended the HubIT MakerLab Berlin event, I was excited and conflicted. Excited because, as a filmmaker whose primary motivation is advocacy, I am constantly looking for new ways to engage audiences. I was conflicted because I had never made anything with hardware and didn’t feel competent. But my doubts slowly started to fade after the pitch session on the first day. 

HubIT MakerLab Berlin lasted from February 21 – 23, 2020 and it opened with a pitch session shortly after participants arrived so that people could share their ideas and organically form groups of interested parties. Davide, the Italian teammate whose idea I worked on wanted to visualize parental leave. His idea was still vague but I joined his team because I was keen on exploring new ways to express the gender wage gap and how it further penalizes mothers. Two other members – Benjamin, a German physicist, and Gustavs, an entrepreneur from Latvia also joined the team. 

Our project, “Mummy’s Little Income Shrinkers” was born less than 48 hours later. We created a scale, which has it’s default position already showing that women earn less than men on average. Our motivation for this was to create an interactive visualization of how motherhood increases the gender pay gap. UN Women reports that on average women around the world earn 24% less than men. The gender wage gap is complex but having children consistently affects women’s incomes across the board.

To simplify our prototype, we used only three scenarios. A scenario where a woman has a baby, one where she has a partner who takes his paternity leave and a final one where she has flexible working hours. We chose these scenarios after reading reports that paternity leave and flexible working hours are two conditions that could significantly affect the wage gap for mothers. 
The scale’s electronics was built using an Arduino Nano and Arduino IDE and the design for the scale itself was made using Autodesk Fusion 360 and Adobe Illustrator and it was cut using Zing Laser. Hot Styrofoam cutting on a FiloCut machine was used for the babies and RFID sensors and cards were used to differentiate the babies. 

I left feeling very rewarded for having stepped out of my comfort zone to work on something new. It also helps that the project won the grand prize and has been invited to participate in the tech and labour conference in Porto in May 2020.

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