Inspirational story about gender-inclusive making

Star Ngei
Hacker and maker, Poland

Star describes themselves as an “enthusiast hacker and maker”, who is also professionally working in the field of hardware and electronics prototyping. 

“Wow, I want to do that, this is something I would like to be part of, and it actually makes a difference.”

Aspiring to change the world for the better, about nine years ago Star came from Kenya to Poland to study economics. Disappointed by their neoliberal nature, Star was invited to join the re:publica, a conference in Berlin, by a member of the Global Innovation Gathering (GIG) by coincidence. There they met makers, hackers and people working in academia and science, who come together to do open projects to foster positive change. It really opened up a whole new world for Star:

“I want to do that, this is something I would like to be part of, and it actually makes a difference.” 

This was when Star decided to learn technology and today they are mostly self-thought in programming, electronics and hardware. They found a lot of resources by talking to people and asking questions.

“I got a lot of mentors, who are willing to share their knowledge with me, and I think that is really what got me from this tentative ‘Oh, maybe I cannot do this” to ‘Okay, I can do this.’” they say. 

Currently, Star is working on a commissioned project simulating blood flow.

While making their way into the maker and hacker culture, Star also encountered some barriers. They found that maker and hackerspaces were “not diverse at all”, rather dominated by white cis-men who act like a “club of friends” doing something for themselves, not welcoming others to join. Star nevertheless has found their ways into the community, the GIG network, spaces that are accepting and welcoming, and friends who are supporting Star in their projects. 

In the last decade, the makerscene in Poland has also changed for the better, becoming more diverse, as many people created their own spaces as a response to their frustration. To Star, inclusivity is mostly a matter of mindset. Even today, some makerspaces have problems with codifying basic rules to prevent harassment of women, trans people and LGBTQIA+ folks in general, mostly because they lack support of community members.

Message to her younger self:

“When being a teenager, Star could not imagine themselves being where they are at now, spending their life wanting to make a difference, without having an idea how. Therefore, Star would encourage themselves: “Hang in there, kiddo. You’re gonna find yourself, you’re gonna find something that you are going to be proud of and it’s going to be awesome!”

For further inspiration: