When Erin Winick was younger, she used to sit at her sewing machine and create her own Halloween costumes.
As a sophomore at UF, she decided she wanted to become an engineer after taking Design and Manufacturing Lab, which showed her how creative engineering can be.
“I really saw that, as an engineer, you can turn your ideas into reality,” Winick said.
Last year, Winick, a UF mechanical engineering senior, decided to combine her passion for science and craft to establish Sci Chic, a company that creates 3-D-printed jewelry inspired by scientific concepts. On Thursday, she’s heading to Philadelphia to speak at the Society of Women Engineers Annual Conference about her company’s outreach in the community.
“Our goal is to be able to spark everyday conversations about science, as well as help educate, especially kids,” the 22-year-old said.
Initially, Winick launched the line on Etsy, but after seeing the high demand, she opened her own e-commerce page. The company has been featured on CNNMoney and on science websites.
Winick’s products can be found in five retail locations, including the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art. At UF Hillel, her science-themed jewelry has a place to grow.
A company called The Selling Factory aims to help startup companies market their products, said Bradley Gamble, the company’s CEO.
When Gamble heard about Sci Chic two months ago, he reached out to Winick in hopes of creating a partnership.
“It’s a genius idea,” Gamble said. “It is marrying fashion with science and putting it in a way that allows people to represent themselves and be proud of the fact — especially young people — proud of the fact that they love science.”
At home, Winnick’s 3-D printers are constantly running. She said she outsources a third machine to create metal pieces because it’s too big to fit in her apartment.
As a student and a business owner, Winick said she’s found the rhythm in balancing schoolwork with her company.
“I always tell people if they’re starting a company in school, you have to be able to learn when to put what first,” Winick said. “You figure out how to work it out. It becomes a practice you get fairly good at.”
Winick’s work does not go unappreciated. When she launched new pieces focused on meteorology, meteorologists around the country reached out to her to express their excitement.
Summer Ash, the director of outreach for the Columbia University Department of Astronomy and the co-founder of STARtorialist, said she sees Winick’s pieces as a form of self-expression.
“The whole idea of a scientist, the stereotype often is that they’re quiet, they keep to themselves, they’re introverts,” Ash said. “So it was awesome to just show that scientists can express themselves through fashion.”
For Winick, one of the most important aspects of Sci Chic is the work it does with children. The bright colors and designs of the jewelry, coupled with educational material found on the website, aims to spread a love of science to children.
Sara Gonzalez, a librarian at the Marston Science Library, has seen firsthand how Sci Chic can impact young girls. Her 7- and 13-year-old daughters got to model some of the jewelry.
“Especially for kids, it’s a way to make them feel connected to science,” Gonzalez said. “I love what Erin’s doing with packaging the jewelry with science education. So not only do they like what they’re wearing, but they start to understand what it’s about.”
Winick said she hopes more people begin to look at science as a creative opportunity.
“Science is more creative than people imagine,” Winick said. “We really need artistic people and problem-solvers, because engineering is really about problem solving. It’s a really artistic field that people that have those skills will do really well.”
Summer Ash, the director of outreach for the Columbia University Department of Astronomy and co-founder of STARtorialist, was incorrectly identified as the founder of STARtorialist. Ash helped co-found STARtorialist.
Erin Winick was incorrectly indentified as being a senior when she took took the course Design and Manufacturing Lab. Winick was a sophomore when she took the course.