Two University of Florida engineering students have combined their passions for science, design, and education into an online shop that's selling some of the coolest science jewelry and accessories out there.
Last fall, Erin Winick and Emily Huber launched Sci Chic with the goal of providing fashionable science and engineering accessories that can act as a conversation starter about these fields.
After meeting through a mutual friend, Winick, a mechanical engineering major, and Huber, a mechanical and aerospace engineering major, hit it off and discovered a shared love for 3D printing. Huber had built her own 3D printer over the summer, and Winick was already toying with the idea for Sci Chic. She invited Huber into the project and together they decided to launch it. It helped that, as Winick told the Daily Dot, she thinks Huber is "the most fashionable engineer" she knows.
Winick got the idea for Sci Chic last year when the school's Society of Women Engineers held an outreach day for middle school students with a focus on girls. The students learned about 3D printing and got to use the software for it. Seeing how well the kids responded to making tangible items with 3D printing made Winick want to find a way to continue this type of outreach and expand on it.
The result is Sci Chic, an online shop that sells necklaces, earrings, rings, and other accessories inspired by science and engineering. Not only does the company have a number of interesting designs to choose from, but when you decide what product you want you can personalize it in a number of ways. You can choose to have pieces made in a variety of materials from the same plastic that molds Lego blocks to stainless steel or even gold plated. In addition to material you can also choose the size of the piece and sometimes the method of its creation by either 3D printing or laser cutting. You can even get a video showing how your item was made.
"We really wanted to do a wide variety of techniques and different materials so that we can make really custom jewelry, so this way we can make sure we're fitting the exact customer need and what they want and at the same time teaching them about different techniques," Winick told the Daily Dot.
Sci Chic wants to create products that are as educational as they are cool to wear. Each product's page includes a short description of the science that inspired it as well as the technology used to create it.
"We wanted to use these different advanced technologies because a lot of what we're doing is trying to spread science and technology literacy through our jewelry," Winick said.
There is also a whole section of educational resources that takes a closer look.The designs themselves include everything from recognizable atoms and moon phases to unique designs like the trajectory of the Apollo 11 mission.
"We're trying to make designs that we haven't seen out there before, because there is science jewelry, but a lot of it is either really literal or really abstract," Winick said. "We're trying to kind of hit somewhere in the middle where we can make something that will make people think or they might look at it and say 'Oh that’s a really cool piece of jewelry' and then go 'Oh my gosh that's inspired by science. I want to learn about it.'"
The company has a long list of designs to make in the future that'll touch on the many different areas of science. It recently took a step in this direction with its new Apex collection released on Pi Day. In the collection Sci Chic tackles some meteorology-inspired items for the first time.
"The new collection is all inspired by geometry in science and engineering, so taking some pieces from engineering as well as meteorology, more molecular and polymer stuff. We also just think the geometric aspects are a really fashionable part of both the science and engineering fields," Winick said.
Winick hopes the line will also help people see how geometric shapes are a "common theme throughout a lot of science and engineering, and art is really ingrained in a lot of what science and engineering is."
In addition to being inspired by different branches of science, the designs will also be influenced by current events in the science world, the founders' own experiences, and suggestions from others. They also accept completely custom orders if you have a specific design in mind. For example, last Christmas a mother ordered a heart necklace that displayed the soundwaves of her kids saying "I love you." Sci Chic did this by using a sound file of the kids saying the phrase to create the soundwaves for the necklace, which was given to a grandmother who was hard of hearing.
Winick said Sci Chic plans to release a soundwave piece as gift people can pre-order for Mother's Day. There will also be items for graduations this spring. So far you can find a circuit board graduation package and DNA graduation package on the website.
The company is also growing in other ways beyond adding new designs and customization options. On Pi Day it divided the website into two new shopping experiences for customers. The first section is Sci Chic Fashon which features more high-fashion items and expensive material options geared towards adults while the second, Sci Chic Kids, has more kid-sized pieces with fun plastic colors.Through its work Sci Chic hopes to increase science awareness and give people, especially women, a way to display their interest in and support of science whether or not they work in the field.
"Growing up I didn't really have a great idea of what engineering was until I even got into college, but I knew I liked science and math and people told me that that was what would lead me to engineering. I feel like by creating these really easy entry points into science and engineering, just like a simple piece of jewelry that you can start to learn a little bit about the science and maybe even dive into some other branches of science based on looking at the other pieces," Winick said. "It gives an easy entry point for both women and men and anyone of any gender to be able to learn about that."
Sci Chic plans to create lesson plans as well so people can use the 3D models in the classroom to help teach about these areas. The educational part of the company is something they hope to build out over the course of the next year, as Winick and Huber both graduate in December.
The end of college won’t mean the end for Sci Chic. Winick said they want to continue the company no matter what they do, though exactly how they continue it is still to be determined. She thinks Huber might want to work on Sci Chic more part-time after graduation, working on the designs while Winick handles the business side of it. Winick called working on the company an amazing journey and said she’s had more fun working on it than anything else she’s ever done.
"I absolutely have a big passion for entrepreneurship and outreach and [Sci Chic] really combines all my interests, so my goal is to work as hard as I can to make this as big as I can in the next eight months and I would absolutely love to work on it full time after I graduate," Winick said.
Whatever the future holds, hopefully Sci Chic will continue to give us ways to be fashionable and knowledgeable with its unique combination of accessories, science, technology, and educational resources.
Photo via Erin Winick