Friday, July 13, 2018

Hear It from a Girl Scout: Preparing Tomorrow’s Engineers and Scientists

From 2013 to 2017, Girl Scouts of the USA partnered with Arconic Foundation to provide ten Gold Award Girl Scouts with the Arconic Chuck McLane Scholarship in recognition of their cutting-edge projects related to science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM). In 2016, Morgan Barron of Girl Scouts of Utah received the scholarship for her project on water conservation devices. She went on to enter the global sustainability and development cohort at the University of Utah in fall 2016 to study mechanical engineering.

From mentoring first-generation college students in STEM to facilitating engineering-based international humanitarian relief efforts, Morgan is spending her college years empowering kids and making a lasting influence on local communities. As she approaches the midway point of her undergraduate career, we caught up with her about her college experience so far and her plans for the future.

What have you been up to, and how are your STEM studies going?
Finishing my fourth semester at the University of Utah, I have full major status in the mechanical engineering program. This past year, I enrolled in a computer problem-solving lab in which my team and I built and programmed a robot. I gained skills necessary to my engineering aspirations: how to program with an Arduino Romeo and how to code in C and MATLAB. I will continue to develop my programming skills this upcoming fall semester, as I am enrolled in an advanced computing class.

This summer, I joined the Minuteman Missile Sustainment Team as an intern. I have had the opportunity to work with professional engineers on meaningful design projects that benefit our national security. I plan to continue working on national defense projects professionally, as I have been accepted into the U.S. Department of Defense’s SMART Scholarship Program.

What challenges have you faced, and how did you overcome them?
Beginning my first semester at the University of Utah, I struggled with academic tunnel vision, and by focusing exclusively on my coursework, I isolated myself. My initial approach to combat my self-inflicted loneliness was rather simplistic: I joined study groups, increased my involvement with on-campus organizations, and attended campus-sponsored events. Connecting with my peers and professors made school much more enjoyable, as some of them have become mentors and friends.

Looking back, how has Girl Scouts and the Arconic Chuck McLane Scholarship impacted your college experience?
At the risk of sounding cliché, I would not be who I am today if it wasn’t for Girl Scouts. Through Girl Scouts, I gained mentors who provided the scaffolding I needed to develop as a leader and opportunities to exercise my leadership skills. I learned the importance of personal advocacy and became confident in my ability to create meaningful, positive change, and I was introduced to a diversity of ideas by interacting with girls of different backgrounds and perspectives. The majority of impactful experiences I have been afforded have been either a direct or indirect benefit of participating in Girl Scouts.

Thanks to the generosity of the Arconic Foundation, I do not have to work to pay for my studies. This has allowed me to focus on my classwork, serve as the outreach co–vice president for the University of Utah’s Society for Women Engineers, write for the Daily Utah Chronicle’s opinion desk, and work for the University of Utah’s Science and Engineering Fair for elementary through high school students.

How do you take the lead?

As a 2018 recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal award, I am dedicated to improving my community. I have been highly involved with outreach through the University of Utah’s Center for Science and Math Education (CMSE) and the Society of Women Engineers. As a participant in my regional STEM fair during my elementary and secondary education, I joined CSME to help facilitate the University of Utah’s Science and Engineering Fair. I read paperwork to ensure the safety of student researchers and organize awards to recognize students’ excellence.

In my position at the Society of Women Engineers, I work to sponsor two Girl Scout Nights (GSNs) for Girl Scouts of Utah and host two Day in the Life of an Engineer (DITL) events for high school girls. We had over 100 Girl Scouts participate at GSNs this year, where they explored the engineering design process and learned how STEM is relevant in their daily lives. I also worked to revitalize the Society of Women Engineers’ DITL event (in November 2017), bringing 70 high school girls to the University of Utah to explore engineering disciplines through experiential learning and mini lectures. I am proud to say that I am facilitating the training of future engineers and scientists.

Through the Arconic Chuck McLane Scholarship, I am able to pursue an education to continue developing my STEM toolbox. I am personally grateful that Girl Scouts and the Arconic Chuck McLane Scholarship champion women in STEM by providing opportunities and funding for higher education.

Girl Scouts offers the best leadership development experience for girls in the world. Because everything a Girl Scout does centers around STEM, the outdoors, life skills, or entrepreneurship and is designed to meet her where she is now and then grow along with her. Explore what the other Arconic Chuck McLane Scholarship recipients have accomplished as part of Girl Scouts, and learn more about the Girl Scout difference.