February 20, 2020

Celebrating "Introduce a Girl to STEM Day"

As part of Engineers Week, Thursday, Feb. 20 is “Introduce a Girl to STEM Day.” Many scholars and policymakers have remarked that the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) have remained predominantly male with historically low participation among women.

It is imperative that we all address this pressing issue. We reached out to some of our engineers to learn more about their stories and also highlight the great work they are doing across our firm to begin to bridge that divide.

Gretchen Battle, PE, Electrical Engineer

Who were your mentors early in your career?

I’ve been blessed with many strong mentors and roadblocks that have pushed me to reach, achieve and strive for new goals. One mentor of mine from an internship in DC showed me what you can do when the plans don’t always work out and encouraged me to be everything I can be. She gave me a textbook “Mechanical and Electrical Equipment for Buildings” with inspirational inscriptions she hand wrote throughout. Many moons ago (at least 10), Paul Kondrat and I first worked together as well, and his leadership/mentorship has helped shaped my career and is why I’m at CannonDesign today!

How are you working to influence the next STEM generation?

In college, I served as an engineering ambassador for Kansas State University. We returned to our local high schools and had the students perform an engineering exercise, usually building a bridge or egg drop device, and then spoke about the program at Kansas State. I was happy to return to the very classrooms that sparked my initial interest in STEM. I also served as a mentor in a required engineering 101 course for all K-State engineering students to understand the program. More recently, I volunteered with the BSA to mentor young architects about what engineers do. As always, I’m happy to help find answers to any electrical engineering questions anyone at CannonDesign may have.

 

Alissa Crandall, Mechanical Engineer

Who/how were you introduced to STEM?

I grew up in rural Illinois, and my parents lived in a farmhouse with 27 acres of pasture for most of my childhood. My dad is an all-around handyman who worked on machinery, tinkered with cars and tractors, constructed his workshop and garages, decks, etc. and always encouraged me to help him with tasks and projects. My photo from 2010 is of me taking 1st in the high school division of a local car show for a 1974 Chevy Nova I restored with my dad.

How are you working to influence the next STEM generation?

When I was in school at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, the Society of Women Engineers chapter I was heavily involved in started its own “Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day” event and it is still growing in popularity every year (7th annual event coming up)! I also try to get involved in local outreach for young women in the STEM community!

 

Therese Galbraith, Mechanical Engineer

What do you love about what you do as a career?

I love watching a building coming to life, particularly when I’ve put so much time, research, and energy into the design.  It’s tremendously rewarding to see all that work come to fruition and to know that it will impact so many lives.

How are you working to influence the next STEM generation?

I am an ACE mentor, and I also taught an experiment-based physics and electricity class to a group of 4th – 6th-grade girls.  More recently, I did a joint presentation on healthcare engineering and architecture at a STEAM conference for 7th-grade girls from around the state of Missouri.

 

Sara Schonour, LC, Assoc. IALD, Lighting Designer

Who/how were you introduced to STEM?

I used to spend hours with my best friend designing and redesigning our perfect treehouse on graph paper… even though we didn’t have a tree to build it in! Then it became a straw bale house, then optimized, portable structures… and now I’m slightly obsessed with Buckminster Fuller. I was also involved in Odyssey of the Mind (oddly, or maybe not so oddly, 2 of my team in Boston were also OMers!) so I definitely got the STEM bug early.

How are you working to influence the next STEM generation?

I’ve had the opportunity to speak a few times about my career path – STEM lunches, inter-industry events, lecturing – and try to use those to share what I’ve learned so far. I also teach – currently lighting design for interior designers at the Boston Architectural College, and I’ve been a guest lecturer and adjunct at RISD, WPI, Roger Williams, Penn State, and others. I serve as the President of the Designer Lighting Forum in Boston, which is a cross-industry group focused on education and networking, where we’re currently refreshing the emerging professionals’ program. And I spend a lot of time at the Footlight Club in JP, which just so happens to be America’s longest continuously operating community theater! I started out volunteering as a theatrical lighting designer, but have expanded into set design, producing, even acting. I love the exchange there – I’m able to help by sharing my technical expertise, and learning to build sets and flex other creative muscles has actually been a great influencer on my thinking as an architectural lighting designer too!

 

Sarah Bower, Electrical Engineer

Who/how were you introduced to STEM?

I was always exposed to science and math and my mom has an accounting background so she always emphasized good math skills. She made me do fractions and percentages every time we went shopping. My biggest exposure to deciding on engineering was from my 8th-grade science teacher Mr. McCollum. He made science so COOL! We did experiments and we learned a little bit about everything. He made it fun and really inspired me.

How are you working to influence the next STEM generation?

I started the Young Engineers group for CannonDesign a few years ago and recently passed the torch to the next leaders. I am so proud of our group. This group provides support for young engineers across the firm and a way for us to feel connected. The networking and support system we have is incredible and I’m so grateful to have been part of it and to see it move forward.

 

Stephanie Hautzinger, AIA, SE, LEED AP, Structural Engineer

Who/how were you introduced to STEM?

My dad is a mechanical engineer in the automotive industry; before I started kindergarten, he had taught me long division and how to draw buildings in perspective.  He spent many hours at the kitchen table with my brother and me creating math problems for us to solve.  He never told me that ‘girls weren’t engineers’, so I never thought twice about following my passion for studying engineering; it wasn’t until I began my career that I realized how few practicing female structural engineers there were.

How are you working to influence the next STEM generation?

I volunteer as the vice president of the Structural Engineers Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing structural engineering through education and research. We award scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students pursuing degrees in structural engineering, as well as sponsor research intended to aid in the advancement of structural engineering.

 

Amber Lang, LEED AP, IntPE(NZ), Electrical Engineer

Who were your mentors early in your career?

I was fortunate to have a female mentor who took me under her wing and showed me the ropes of the business. She was a force to be reckoned with and very knowledgeable. I was already comfortable in a male-dominated atmosphere, but she taught me to just step around the roadblock and not try to fight it. You won’t get very far pounding on a brick wall with your fists.

How are you working to influence the next STEM generation?

I was an ACE mentor for a couple of years, have mentored high school kids student and fellow employees.  I also try to share the amazement of life, how things work and work.

 

Charlotte Sauer, EIT, LEED AP BD+C, Structural Engineer

Who/how were you introduced to STEM?

In middle school, I won a scholarship to the STEPS summer camp through the University of Wisconsin Stout for girls interested in STEM.  No one in my family had ever done engineering, and this experience opened my eyes to how fun a job it could be.

What do you love about what you do as a career?

Nearly everyone has marveled at a tall skyscraper or an innovative structure, and it’s so exciting to be behind the scenes, being the one making those structures a reality.

Rebecca McGowan, EIT, CDT, Structural Engineer

Who/how were you introduced to STEM?

My high school mechanical drafting teacher. He mentioned that he taught an elective course on architectural design but there weren’t enough students interested in taking it. He then brought some of that information into the drafting class, which ultimately ended up helping me choose a college major.

How are you working to influence the next STEM generation?

I really enjoy volunteering – especially with organizations that teach younger generations about engineering. The two I spend the most time with are the Buffalo-area Engineering Awareness for Minorities (BEAM) non-profit and ASCE’s Buffalo chapter. When I first joined BEAM, their Saturday Academy classes focused largely on mechanical engineering and computer science, so it’s been incredibly rewarding to start teaching classes on structural engineering principles. They both give opportunities to students to learn about what a practicing professional does in their day-to-day and introduces them to very broad engineering topics that they wouldn’t normally see in a high school curriculum.

 

Kate St. Laurent, LC, Assoc. IALD, Lighting Designer

Who/how were you introduced to STEM?

My mom was a 6th grade Math teacher and an avid sewer.  To say she went above and beyond to make Math accessible is an understatement.  She had lesson plans where she would bring sewing machines into the classroom and teach basic Math and Engineering skills so that they could design and then create a pillow.  She also taught me to sew from an early age and I would say I had a firm grasp of scale before most.  My dad was a mainframe computer programmer.  We had a computer in our house circle 1980!  I even dabbled in basic coding at a young age.

What do you love about what you do as a career?

It is the absolute perfect marriage of math, science and art.  Because of many of my roadblocks, I ended up pursuing degrees that were more art-based but fell into lighting design by chance and it couldn’t have been more perfect.

 

Julie Shaw, PE, Structural Engineer

Who were your mentors early in your career?

In college, one of my older cousins and two of my Architectural Engineering Professors (shout out Dr. Baur and Mr. Pickerill) were wonderful mentors to me in helping me try to decide what type of engineering I wanted to pursue. I originally wanted to design rollercoasters, but they helped me find my way to buildings! Since I’ve started at CannonDesign, my supervisor Ruofei has been a great mentor – helping me grow my skills and navigate the beginning of my career as an engineer.

What do you love about what you do as a career?

I love that most days hold a different and interesting challenge, and also that I get to help teams solve problems! Every building is like a large unique 3D puzzle and it is a lot of fun helping to put those puzzles together. It is also extremely cool to see something you help design come to life and to see how people interact with the spaces – that is incredibly rewarding!