#PeopleofSTEAM is an ongoing blog series that highlights diverse voices in our community and the impacts they are making on the world of FIRST, the world of STEAM, and/or in their own backyard.
After earning a degree in Math and Computer Science, Naomi Edwards spent 15 years teaching high school students and mentoring a FIRST team in rural Washington state, and currently in her STEAM career, she is a Curriculum Development Specialist at PTC supporting Onshape. Naomi is a person of STEAM who provides a unique glimpse into some of the non-traditional (and perhaps unexpected) roles and experiences one can have in these industries.
In her role as a Curriculum Development Specialist, Naomi leverages the breadth of her career and education experience to create resources and content for students and educators. She enjoys working directly with teachers on a day-to-day basis and is proud that the curriculum she develops is used globally. Read more about her experience as a person of STEAM in the Q&A below.
FIRST Staff: What is your favorite part of your current role as Curriculum Development Specialist at PTC?
Naomi: I love that I am able to use my teaching experience and create really helpful activities and lessons for students to consume. My reach while I was teaching was local. Instead of just impacting about 100 students each year, which I loved, I get to teach thousands of students all over the world! My other favorite part of this role at PTC is getting to train teachers on how to use Onshape in the classroom. I love working with educators. They have the toughest job in the world and it’s my absolute joy to enable more educators to use Onshape in the classroom to teach robotics.
FIRST Staff: What is the hardest part of your job?
Naomi: I believe it’s much like many jobs. Sometimes the hardest thing is to just get started on a task or project. It will probably be wrong and at the very least need heavy editing or refining. The beginning of a project can feel overwhelming and can keep you from taking action. Adults and students alike struggle with this and so, I find myself having to just get started. That’s often the biggest hill to climb. I love this quote because I don’t have to know it all. I just have to be willing to learn as I go.
“Just start. Don’t wait for perfection. Just start and let the work teach you.” – Jacquline Novogratz
FIRST Staff: How do you use STEAM skills in your everyday work/life?
Naomi: I use STEAM skills every single day in my job. Sometimes, I am working on models in Onshape to include in curriculum. Sometimes, I need to design and manufacture parts. And sometimes, I need to gather videos or edit pictures. Other times, I am expected to do technical writing. Many of the skills I learned in my undergrad research or while mentoring my FIRST team are used repeatedly. I think it’s important to just learn what you can because you never know how seemingly unrelated skills can complement each other in a career.
FIRST Staff: Can you share your thoughts on the impact of your personal/professional work in STEAM?
Naomi: I like to think that I provide steppingstones. Learning how to design a large robot is an end goal. Many of the curriculum pieces I create help students get from opening Onshape for the first time to feeling enabled to put their design down on the page. CAD can turn a lot of people away at the door because it’s intimidating. My job is to enable students to take a first step and see the possibilities. Where they go from there is up to them. But I like to think that I’m helping to remove the barrier to entry on such a valuable skill for students.
FIRST Staff: Who is a “Person of STEAM” who inspires you?
Naomi: This is hard to narrow down because so many people have greatly impacted me. However, Hedy Lamarr is someone I find so fascinating. She pioneered communications technology which ended up becoming the basis for today’s Wi-Fi, GPS, and Bluetooth and she was a Hollywood actress. I love the contrast of her life. Incredible people come from everywhere in the world. This should be celebrated more, and people should feel emboldened to be genuine to themselves I think the most interesting people in the world have experience in many things and can see the connections between them.
FIRST Staff: If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
Naomi: Explore! I should have taken my own advice and had confidence in trying new things and that I could learn along the way. Instead, I had a mindset of, “you either know it or you don’t.” That held me back because it’s easy to do things you know and have experience with. This took me years to see, and I still work on it today!
FIRST Staff: Do you have a message you want to share for students who are participating in FIRST today?
Naomi: Be confident. Specifically, be confident in your ability to learn and rise to challenges. Be confident that your mistakes are excellent learning moments. Be confident to speak up and ask questions. Be confident to try new things!
Are you a person of STEAM? Share your story with #PeopleofSTEAM on social media or send us your story at firstname.lastname@example.org.