When you picture a CEO in the tech industry you probably imagine a male around 30 years of age. But, many tech disrupters do not fit this image at all. In fact, at the age of eight, Lauren Voison, along with her sister and best friend, started building Robots R Fun. Now nine, Voison is changing the landscape of what it means to be a "tech CEO."
Unlike anything on the market, Robots R Fun encourages other kids to explore robotics and technology by offering tutorials and robot kits. Voison’s projects have been exhibited at Calgary Mini Maker Faire and Make Fashion. She has even been a speaker at the San Francisco Maker Faire.
Along with being interested in robots, Voison is an elementary school student hoping to become an electrical engineer. She took some time away from her tech business and studies to provide insight into the challenges of being a very young tech leader, some tips on public speaking, and her future plans.
“Sometimes people don’t take me seriously or they assume
that because I am a girl I don’t know anything about technology,
so I just politely try to show them that young kids and girls can do anything.”
How did you become interested in robots and tech?
I have always been taking things apart but I did not always know how they worked. I continued to be fascinated by anything involving technology. Then one time when I was 6, I put something back together and I built my first robot. I wanted to share my knowledge with the world.
Out of all your bots/projects, which is your favourite and why?
My favorite is my Nautilus MakeFashion dress because it is one of the most advanced projects that I have done so far. I wanted to make a dress that behaved like a bio-luminescent creature. The dress incorporates sensors that activate lights when you are close to an object or someone else. There are also laser cut nautilus shells that light up when you take a step or jump. There is also a light cord that is sewn on to show the dress has some unexpected features.
I saw that you've been a speaker at Maker Faire. Are you naturally good at public speaking? Any tips you would share with those that struggle with it?
I’ve always wanted to be in the spotlight. I do several other activities like swimming and aerial dancing that help me to be super comfortable. Sometimes I get nervous, but I really want to share my ideas and get others interested in robotics, so even if I am nervous, it is more important to share my ideas.
What challenges do you face as a young leader, especially in tech, or have you faced with Robots Are Fun?
Sometimes people don’t take me seriously or they assume that because I am a girl I don’t know anything about technology, so I just politely try to show them that young kids and girls can do anything.
What personality traits have gotten you to where you are today?
Probably my trait of never giving up because sometimes things get stressful and I feel like giving up, but I keep pushing forwards. I have a lot of support and I really like learning and sharing what I know.
What advice would you give to girls around your age who are interested in tech and are seeking positive support?
There are more places to go to learn about technology then there were when I was younger, which is great. I think being inspired by organizations like MakeFashion and the Maker Faire are a great place to start. Girls Learning Code is fantastic because they really take you through everything step by step and make sure you understand everything. Maker Spaces like Archeloft and Protospace are good for younger children as well. If you hit a bump or [meet] someone who doesn’t understand what you want to do, keep looking and stay on the path you want to take.
I saw that you want to be an electrical engineer when you grow up. Why do you want to be an electrical engineer?
I think electrical engineers will be involved in a lot of the things we use everyday, if not everything. Components are getting more creative and you can do some really amazing things with electricity. I think we are also making the way we use electricity more efficient and that is interesting to me. I am also interested in quantum theory so I might also do something with that.
I read that your role models are Chris Hadfield and Jay Ingram. Do you have any other mentors or role models?
Elon Musk is inspiring. James Dyson [too], especially because it took so many tries to get the vacuum right. There are a lot more inspirational people that I am learning about and I think it is important to have mentors and role models because they show you what can be done when everyone else thinks it’s silly.
Any final words of wisdom?
My grandpa tells me to always be curious and never stop learning. I think that is good advice.
No matter the age, we can always learn and be inspired by others. Lauren’s passion for tech and courageousness in public speaking and presenting her projects is admirable. She is a mover, builder and creator that is transforming a traditionally male, older age industry...at only the age of 9!
Hear more from Lauren at Chic Geek’s Geeky Summit!
*This interview has been edited for length.