Growing up, Danielle Olson '14 thought of herself as the artistic type, but also loved engineering—two interests that she felt were at odds. “I had this preconceived notion that you could only be one or the other,” she says.
At MIT, Olson learned she could indulge in the creative and the technical at the same time. “I was afraid I was going to lose my artistic side. What I found was the opposite. The classes I took and projects I took on engaged the left and right side of my brain,” she says. Olson says her Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) education at MIT inspired her to find a way to give back and share that kind of education with others—even if they didn’t attend MIT. That’s where the idea for Gique came from. Olson, along with friends Ashli Davis-Polanco ’12 and Phil Getzen, launched the nonprofit in 2013 as a way to provide students in Greater Boston with a hands-on STEAM learning experience.
Gique began with an afterschool arts- and science-based learning program that includes workshops and weekly education curriculum in Dorchester. “I want the students to be able to view things through the art of science and the science of art,” Olson says.
Olson, a program manager at Microsoft, and her fellow volunteers develop projects to engage students and lead workshops. “I’ve learned so much from doing this,” Olson says. “We look for things that students find interesting. For example, we take selfies all the time, but how does that camera really work?” she says. Students can then head to a Gique workshop to apply what they learned and build something themselves.
Students in Gique’s afterschool program, which combines combining many subject areas, have made pinhole cameras, holographic images, and LED cuffs.
Gique currently offers curriculum and programming to a class of 15 at the Boys & Girls Club of Dorchester, while also offering one-day workshops that have reached hundreds in Greater Boston. Gique will soon expand to an additional site in Boston. They are also training volunteers to lead Gique workshops in Atlanta, GA, with plans to expand across the east coast.
Olson says her goal with Gique is help young minds find what they are passionate about—and not feel pigeonholed by it, “I envision an environment where kids have the space to explore their passion and learn concepts at their own discretion while gaining confidence.”