Software engineer, cosplay enthusiast and self-proclaimed “magical unicorn” Amie D. Dansby is coming to Adelaide next month to talk coding, costumes and tech at Hybrid World. The Dallas, Texas game programmer might look playful, but “Amie D.D.” is serious business – especially when it comes to representing women in the industry.
Dansby is an advocate for women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), and set up the first-ever scholarship to support women in the industry through the US National Videogame Museum.
“This little girl told me that she thought all programmers were like [Jurassic Park character] Dennis, the hacker with the messy desk, drinking Coca-Cola,” says Dansby. “She said she liked purses and shoes.
“If you could just spark her interest to know that, you could design this … you could 3D print your own shoes or your own purse. Then with [the] detail for that purse, you could provide a 3D printer for someone in another country and they could make their own design.”
Connecting with young people ensures diversity in the next generation of tech professionals, says Dansby. She knows firsthand the challenges of being a woman in a male-dominated industry. She was the first-ever female intern at Marvel Studios, but insists she “never felt out of place”. “I was homeschooled and I have four brothers. It’s never a strange thing,” says Dansby, who is used to being the only woman in the room. But she stills gets underestimated by some.
“Sometimes [people] don’t believe that I’m the one who did the design, or the schematics, or the programming,” she says.
After losing her mum to breast cancer at an early age, Dansby was inspired to study medicine in college, but soon realised her passion was to make video games. After interning at Marvel and working on the original Captain America game, she took work at Playstation and Xbox, before launching augmented reality video games at ATAT Tech.
Dansby is so committed to technology that she recently had an NFC (near-field communication) bio-transponder chip inserted into her hand. In simpler terms, “It holds 880 bytes of data, which is [equivalent to] a tweet. I can read and write any information I want to it,” she explains.
The chip is like the microchips used on pets in Australia. It’s “the size of a grain of rice … a tiny little encapsulated magnet” used to store information. Dansby uses it in place of a keycard to access her apartment building and sees future uses in health and medicine. She’s even hoping it will start the engine of her brand new Tesla car.
The bio-transponder has sparked fiery debates about body modification, but Dansby isn’t concerned. “I’m covered in tattoos, so realistically it’s not the worst thing I’ve done to my body.”
The tricky part was telling Grandma. “[She] was like, ‘Why?’ but yet, my grandma has her eyebrows tattooed on,” she says, laughing. “I was like, Grandma, you have your face tattooed.”
Dansby now travels the world creating workshops for people to learn the skills of coding, programming, 3D printing and technological innovation. For Hybrid World she will create a “space junk punk” costume in collaboration with the University of South Australia’s MOD (Museum of Discovery) and Adelaide workshop participants. She’s excited about the emphasis on collaboration – the festival is one of few conferences based on open-source information sharing, in an industry that is infamous for keeping its techniques secret.
“Everyone knows something you don’t know. I want somebody to take something and improve [on it], or inspire them to go do something on their own.”
Hybrid World is at the Adelaide Convention Centre from July 20 to 24.