Monday, June 13, 2016

Hear It From a Girl Scout: Engineer on a Mission

In collaboration with Alcoa Foundation, Girl Scouts of the USA has provided eight Girl Scouts since 2013 with the Alcoa Chuck McLane Scholarship, which is available to Gold Award recipients who complete Gold Award projects related to science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM). Morgan Barron of Girl Scouts of Utah received the Alcoa Chuck McLane Scholarship in 2016. She will enter the global sustainability and development cohort of the Lassonde Studios at the University of Utah in fall 2016 to study mechanical engineering. Check out her story and what she has to say about her experience in Girl Scouts.

Tell us about your STEM-related Gold Award project.
Engaging the engineering process, I created a water-conserving hand sanitation device, “RainCloud,” for areas without a formal water infrastructure. RainCloud has the potential to prevent death caused by sanitation-related diseases; 2 million people die annually from not being able to wash their hands. RainCloud was presented at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair last month.

Empowered by my ability to create sustainable and meaningful change through engineering, I addressed hundreds of elementary students throughout Salt Lake Valley. Presenting a simplified engineering process, I encouraged them to investigate STEM education by innovating simple, low-tech solutions to daily issues. As a student judge at Jordan School District’s STEM fair, I helped select elementary student representatives to compete at the Central Utah STEM Fair (CUSF), rewarding the best projects and encouraging the rest to participate again next year. Many of these young innovators I mentored advanced to compete at CUSF, but mostly these children learned to be solution-oriented, a key step to “making the world a better place.”

What does the Alcoa Chuck McLane Scholarship mean to you?
I am personally grateful that Alcoa champions women in STEM by providing opportunities and funding for higher education. By providing scholarships to Gold Award recipients, Alcoa is investing in the upcoming generation of global citizens, individuals empowered to incite sustainable and meaningful change worldwide. Through the Alcoa Chuck McLane Scholarship, I am able to pursue an education to continue developing my STEM toolbox. Upon entering the workforce, I will be able to solve seemingly impossible problems and provide compassionate leadership.

Where are you going to college and what STEM studies are you interested in focusing on at this time?
I am attending the University of Utah this upcoming fall, and I am pursuing a mechanical engineering degree. As a student leader for the Lassonde Institute, I will promote STEM education in Title I schools and will mentor first-generation college students. I will also be involved with the campus’ Engineers Without Borders, a student-led organization which provides international humanitarian relief through the engineering process.

What impact has Girl Scouts had on your life?
I truly believe Girl Scouts is the premier leadership organization for young women. Through participating in Girl Scouting, I have had unique opportunities to cultivate leadership skills in a safe environment, to connect with mentors who truly care about my success, and to engage in activities I am passionate about. I do not believe I would have had these experiences by participating in any other organization.

What advice would you give to other girls who are in the process of earning the Gold Award?
For a Gold Award to be truly meaningful, you need to be passionate about the change you are personally advocating to make. A Gold Award should create a tangible footprint, not only a paradigm shift, to promote project sustainability.

What advice would you give to other girls who want to pursue a STEM field?
Young women investigating STEM careers need to personally explore the field. By finding a mentor invested in their success and by participating in every STEM opportunity available, they can ask questions and discover which aspect of STEM empowers them.

How do you take the lead?
A product of compound community service—having served regularly for over a decade—I have learned to identify when there is a need to provide relevant leadership. The idea for RainCloud was born out of a reaction to Katherine Boo’s narrative of life and death in Mumbai slums, Behind the Beautiful Forevers, which chronicled the lack of sanitation in an area without plumbing. Completing more research, I learned 2 million people die annually from dysentery, a disease which can be prevented by proper sanitation. I contributed my time and talent to creating RainCloud because of my initial and genuine concern, but I was able to make a difference because I familiarized myself with the root causes of the issue.