We think you’ll agree—this Minnesota teen is an embodiment of our mission

When Julia Chaffin decided she wanted to build a smart mirror for a summer project, she did what every 21st century teen would do—she turned to the internet. She was expecting to find clear, step-by-step instructions on how to use a computer monitor, some two-way mirror film and a Raspberry Pi kit to create a mirror that could display the date, time and current weather. But what she found was anything but beginner friendly.

So, what did she do? She took matters into her own hands, creating the nonprofit Smart View, which sells all-in-one mirror kits and provides easy-to-follow directions on how to program the software and assemble the mirror.

She knew she didn’t want to make money off the kits. That’s not in the spirit of Raspberry Pi’s open-source ecosystem. So, she again turned to the internet to find a worthy cause. This time, the internet didn’t let her down—it led her straight to Play Like a Girl!

“The whole tie-in with STEM for girls and sports and the belief that leadership comes from sports just really resonated with me,” she says.

You see, Julia also is an athlete. She plays both soccer and golf, which she describes as completely different in terms of what she’s gained from the sports. With soccer, it’s all about the confidence that she gets playing on a team. 

“Soccer has taught me to be more outgoing and to believe in myself more,” she says. “That definitely rolls over to school and other parts of my life.”

When Julia’s family moved to Switzerland for her mom’s work when she was younger, it was soccer that helped her make fast friends.

With golf, it’s more about the puzzle. “You think more about every single move,” she says. “You hit the ball and you have two minutes or more to decide what you’re going to do next. There’s definitely a lot more thinking. At first it was hard, because it’s so easy to get in your own head. But I’ve learned that if I have a bad shot, that’s OK. It just means I have to figure out where to go from there.” 

Julia is a junior in high school now and is on the cusp of getting to decide what’s next for her academically. Right now, she’s thinking about biomedical engineering. “Whether I go into medicine after that or design medical devices, those sound like super cool career paths,” she says.

And she already has built-in mentors—her mom, Kim, is a chemical engineer and a senior distinguished scientist for Medtronic, one of the biggest medical device companies in the world. Her brother is studying mechanical engineering at the University of Michigan (mom’s alma mater). “They were always saying to me,” she recounts. They said ‘Take an engineering class at some point to see if you like it.’”

Julia did take an engineering class (two, actually). But she doesn’t just like it—she loves engineering!