Guest Contributor: Theresa Krack
In 2013, I was asked by my local Girl Scout council to help promote STEM as a part of “Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day” that year. They asked me to share my story on how I was introduced to STEM, what got me interested in STEM, and the importance of certain individuals in influencing my STEM education/career choice. I am happy to share this same story with my fellow SWEsters in PNW!
A long time ago, in a school not so far away… I learned that science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) were topics that I was passionate about learning. When I was in grade school, I was the girl that always checked out the science books. My favorites were the books on the planets in the solar system –my mom has told me I would bring them home week after week, even if I had read them before. From that early age, I knew I loved things related to science.
As I grew older, I discovered that there were some pretty cool things you could do when applying science knowledge. In middle school, I did a research paper on the science behind Star Trek and looked at how the science in the show might actually become reality in the future. In sixth grade, I had the opportunity to attend Space Camp in Florida – possibly one of the best weeks ever! I got to miss a week of school (a pretty great thing as a kid) and spent a week learning about space sciences and applications.
When I got to high school, I took my first physics class. My teacher inspired me to not only learn what we needed for the test, but to also apply my critical thinking skills to the math and science that we were learning.
These experiences taught me about myself – that I wanted to not only know how and why things work (why I like physics and science), but to try and make them better (why I’m involved in engineering, Girl Scouts, and the Society of Women Engineers).
I went on to college, earning degrees in Physics (with a Math minor) and Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics. Now I work as an aircraft certification engineer, reviewing design data packages and regulations to ensure that everything is in order and safe to fly. My first major project was to certify the use of cell phones on airplanes in Europe. I even made several trips to Europe to present our project plan and findings, all within the first two years on the job – how cool is that?
I have had some great mentors over the years, from teachers to my parents, who have made all the difference in my journey. They each helped me discover a different aspect of my passion for STEM-related topics and provided guidance and encouragement for the next steps of my trek to a STEM career. I have given back by volunteering with the SWE, teaming up with Girl Scouts, and evening helping with my company’s outreach events – I love to pay it forward and inspire today’s girls to explore STEM fields.
My challenge to the adults, whoever you are, is to be a mentor and encourage the girls in your life to find their passion. You don’t need to be an expert in the area where the girls have their passion – just stand beside them as they go on their journey. Being in a STEM field myself, I strongly encourage you to make science, technology, engineering, and math cool and encourage girls to explore these paths to hopefully find their passion.
My challenge to the girls out there, whatever your age, is to look for a mentor and ask them for advice – it is always an honor to be asked to be a mentor! If you aren’t sure where you want to go or what you want to do, check out the STEM fields. Keep your eyes open for opportunities that will spark your passion and give you the chance to shine. Ask questions and never give up on learning something new! And, when you are older, remember that you too can be a mentor, and pay it forward to the next generation, inspiring girls of the future on their journeys.
This guest article is part of SWE PNW's Contributor's Choice series, where section members submit a topic/article that they'd like to share with the section. A version of this article was originally published on the Girl Scouts of Wisconsin Southeast (GSWISE) blog as a part of Engineers Week 2013.