Get to Know Allie Weber: Teen Inventor, Maker, and MythBuster
At 13 years old, Allie Weber is already making her mark in the world of STEM. A budding inventor and builder, Allie is a patent-pending, multiple award-winning Maker who has been recognized by 3M, Teen Vogue, and has even inspired a Robot Maker Lottie Doll.
While Allie’s innovations and accomplishments are brag-worthy, she uses her well-earned spotlight to sing the praises of other young girls in STEAM. She is also a firm believer that kids aren’t going to change the world someday – they’re already doing it. We couldn’t agree more!
Allie recently announced that she’ll be appearing alongside Adam Savage and a team of other innovative kids on the new MythBusters Jr. series debuting on Science Channel later this year. When she isn’t busy getting her build on, Allie loves playing soccer and tennis, watching her favorite movies, and playing the trumpet.
Get inspired by Allie as she talks MythBusters Jr., celebrating girls in STEAM, and how she learns from her mistakes.
Get to Know Allie Weber:
- How did you first discover your interest in STEM?
- ALLIE WEBER: I am not sure there was a specific point of discovery. I’ve always liked to make things. I used a low temp glue gun when I was 4 years old and made tons of things out of cardboard. I think my first big project was a robot I made out of recycled materials for the science fair when I was 6. His hands used a pulley system to make them open and close. Robie the Robot was a hit at the science fair and I won the viewer’s choice award.
That project actually inspired the Robot Builder Lottie Doll that was released when I was 8. I guess that encouragement lead to me entering different online invention competitions and after winning and placing in many of those with various things I invented and built, I kind of figured out I was pretty good at STEM subjects.
- What project(s) are you currently working on bringing to life?
- ALLIE: Most currently I have taken on the challenge of making my little brother a Spider-Man Homecoming homemade suit. So far, I’ve only used things that I have found at the thrift store and things from around the house. I also have been taking advantage of my 3D printer for the goggles that go on the hood. I really hope it turns out well. I will post a video about my process on my YouTube channel Tech-nic-Allie Speaking. Cosplay and making props like those seen in movies is pretty popular in the Maker community. I like inventing to solve problems, but making for the fun and joy of it is enjoyable too and I think making a cosplay fits in that category.
I’m always tossing around a few secret innovation plans. It can be hard to work on projects publicly for me now as many people, even companies, are watching, and ideas can be “borrowed” so to speak if you are not careful to protect them. But yes, my mind is always busy thinking about the next big idea!
- What challenges have you faced as a young female maker and inventor?
- ALLIE: I think one of the things that is hardest is trying to find an engineering camp or lesson that is a good fit for me. Most of the classes that are geared towards kids my age are too easy, only for beginners, or are about things that I have already learned. Much of what I learn is through me researching and reaching out to people to get the information I need. On the other hand, the classes that are about topics that I still have not mastered almost always have an age limit of 16 or up.
There have been times even getting access to the tools I have needed has been a bit difficult, due to my age. I am not talking dangerous tools either, just computer programs that had an age limit in their system to use and would send you to the “Kid” version if I put in my age. That one took a while to straighten out. I found the world really isn’t built for tweens. Now that I am a teen, some things are easier. I really think my hardest years were 10-12, as no one could believe the work I was doing. I felt I had to constantly prove myself and my knowledge base and ability just to get credit or access to things I needed.
- You often use your platform to lift up and support other girls in STEM. Can you share a little about why this is so important to you?
- ALLIE: I really don’t see myself as different or better than anyone else. Online I have a bit of a following, and people quickly started to take notice of my work as I was Tweeting about my projects. I realized my following on social media can be used to bring attention to other kids in STEM as well. When I started getting this attention, I started looking on Twitter for other kids around my age who were doing work in STEM like me. I knew I couldn’t be the only one, and I didn’t want to be. On my Twitter account, especially when things start to be a bit too much about ME and my awards and accomplishments, I often start posting about other kids and their accomplishments. It’s one reason why a few of us started The STEAMsquad.org.
The STEAM Squad is a group of the top girls in STEAM around the world that have agreed to support each other and lift each other up while also giving girls someone to see. We hope by other kids being able to see the things we have done and are doing, we can inspire them to try to accomplish the things they may have considered doing as well. I had heard from other women in STEM that it was not always easy being the only woman they saw in their fields and the problems that being the only woman have caused. The STEAM Squad girls know we don’t want to show up alone, and that it is a good idea to bring others along with us. It’s funny, but although many really competitive people think that by talking about the amazing talent of others, people might think less of your talents and abilities, but that is a total MYTH I can BUST right now. We know celebrating each other’s accomplishments never takes away from your own.
- You recently announced that you’ll be on the upcoming MythBusters Jr. series on the Science Channel! How did you react when you found out you were going to be a part of this project?
- ALLIE: Funny story, actually. When I got called to try out for the show, they didn’t say it was for MythBusters Jr, they just said for a “Science-based kids TV show.” During my first Skype interview, the interviewer asked if I could say some phrases like there would be in commercials.
The specific sentence that she asked me to say was “Let’s get these myths busted.” and I remember just going “Uhhh, could you repeat that?” and she responded once again with “Let’s get these myths busted.” And I just went “IS THE SHOW MYTHBUSTERS JR.?!?” and she replied “Didn’t I tell you that already?” and I just freaked out. I couldn’t stay calm at all. It was amazing that I was even being considered for the show, and it was like a dream come true when I was chosen for it. It was a VERY happy day for me. I have always been a MythBusters fan and this was a dream come true for me!
- What can fans expect from the show? Do you have any favorite moments you can share?
- ALLIE: Get ready for farts, animals, duct tape, and of course – explosions! It’ll be a wild ride of a show. I think that my favorite myth that we tested was that you can use a golden orb spider’s web to catch small bait fish. It was probably the most fun for me because it was absolutely the most random thing ever, and we got to get fish. I named them all. Their names were Minkle, Minkle, Minkle, Minkle, Minkle, Minkle, Minkle, Minkle, Minkle, and Rufus. You could tell it was Rufus because it had a black spot over its lip that looked like a mustache. It was so fun to try to catch all of them, they were so fast! Even after we did the myth we kept them in the green room and took care of them. They were so adorable!
Yes, there were explosions, and some amazing things I got to see in person that you only see on TV or in movies, but my favorite parts of the show were the things that had never been done. Things you hadn’t ever seen on TV. While they may not sound as exciting as explosions, the randomness of doing something no one had done before even if it sounds small, was the most exciting for me.
- Who are some of your science idols and inspirations?
- ALLIE: If you are talking science fiction, I have always looked up to the character Dr. Ellie Sattler from Jurassic Park, because she is always so confident and sure of herself. She was the one that got the park back under control after the dinosaurs chased her several times, and she proved herself repeatedly to the men who thought less of her skills and ability because she is a girl. She was a woman in a male-dominated field, and she didn’t let that stop her from pursuing her dreams of being a Paleobotanist. Also, she likes dinosaurs, so that’s amazing.
As far as real humans, there are so many I can’t even name them all, I follow many women in STEM on Twitter. One thing I find is that I am inspired by everyone. Top scientists, and beginning makers, teachers, co-workers. It doesn’t matter what age they are or who they are, what I think is cool and inspiring comes from everywhere, and everyone I meet. So it is very difficult to pick one person or even a small few.
- Do you have any dream projects or goals you’re hoping to accomplish in the future?
- ALLIE: Many of the current projects on my to-do list are more fun projects that I haven’t had the time to do the last few years as I have been so busy with my innovations and competitions. They are projects to grow my skills, as they are things in areas I haven’t done yet, but want to learn how to do. Projects that can change the world are often BIG projects and can sometimes only let you grow in one area. I decided it was important for me to take a step back and give myself a chance to learn and explore other things to gain new skills too.
I hope to continue making YouTube videos on my channel Tech-nic-Allie Speaking. I am also currently working to secure a patent or two on a few of my innovation projects I have created in the past. My outreach work will continue as well. I hope to continue to speak and host STEM workshops for elementary kids. Then there is school, soccer, tennis, trumpet, youth group. I like to stay busy.
- When one of your projects doesn’t go as planned, how do you take a step back and learn from what went wrong?
- ALLIE: One time, one of my innovations, the Blow Dart Spirometer for use in Children’s Hospitals, wasn’t working when I was testing it. I had already gone through three different testing methods by then, so I honestly began to panic when it wasn’t working the way I planned. I tested it at least twenty more times, trying to troubleshoot. I checked the code. Everything should have been fine. That was when I decided to take a chocolate milk break and think about it. Afterwards, I went back to my innovation, anxious that I wouldn’t find anything to fix, only to discover after about two seconds that the power cord had come unplugged. Of course, it wouldn’t read anything, it didn’t have any power to run! I guess the lesson that I’m trying to teach is that sometimes we can get so worked up about what terrible things went wrong that we can overlook the easy to fix details. The strategy that I use now, in the words of Henry Jones Senior “I find, that if I just sit down to think…The solution presents itself!”
- Do you have any advice for other girls who want to start making, creating, and inventing?
- ALLIE: I think that the main thing that keeps people from innovating is high expectations. They think, like I used to, that you need a huge problem to solve like world hunger or global warming. This is simply not the case. All you really need is to find an issue that bothers you, an everyday problem to fix, then create something to solve it. I guess that’s what I would tell anyone who wants to start inventing.
For example, once I created a portable card-table that allows you to easily play almost any card game in almost any moving vehicle. It wasn’t solving a huge, world-changing problem, but it still improved long road trips for my brother’s and I. And always believe in yourself. When I first began entering invention competitions I had no idea that I had even a chance of winning. Then I began to get recognition in contest after contest and I realized that the thing that really led me to succeed, along with a lot of help from God, was having confidence that I actually was able to do it. And I did, so you can too.
If Allie’s story has inspired you, check out our Female Scientist Spotlight to learn more about the women in science who paved the way for girls like her!