STEMPro Spotlight: Meagan Ross, Engineering Technology at Texas Instruments and Beyond
Meagan Ross is on a mission to help society better understand the wonderful world of engineering. One of her goals is to help society identify and erase biases that still exist in statements like: "women can't or shouldn't...." and "that's a man's job" that cause youth to shy away from engineering. She want to help girls (and boys) understand that there are a lot of opportunities to be themselves in careers that change the world. She is determined to help change the belief systems of teachers, parents, and girls when it comes to gender equity in the STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) career fields.
Knowledge is Power and Lucrative
Meagan understands firsthand how important it is for school personnel to understand how to tap into the affinities of students and help them navigate the career pathways. Meagan initially wanted to be an interior designer. She was at the top of her high school graduating class and knew she would attract lucrative scholarship packages. One of Meagan's instructors saw her "creativity and passion for design with a purpose" being used in a different manner and encouraged her to apply for a computer science program at the Texas Women's University that offered paid tuition and an internship at Texas Instruments (TI). She was fortunate to use her skills as a full-time employee at TI for two years after earning a masters degree in Electrical Engineering from the Texas Tech University. A graduate fellowship from the National Science Foundation is supporting Meagan's pursuit of a doctoral degree in Engineering Education at Purdue University College of Engineering (May 2014).
Calculators = About 1.5% of the Texas Instruments Business Brand
Meagan's major work at one of TI's subsidiaries involved MEMS (micro-electro-mechanical systems). As a lover of TI calculator and classroom support materials, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that TI is mainly a semi-conductor company for all types of electronics.
She shared that MEMS is like micro scale chips. Think nanotechnology and the micro toys and tools inside of systems that help us enjoy advanced electronics. Can you imagine 250 million mirrors in 1 square inch on hinges being controlled by reflecting light and color (similar to what we see in our television) as the driving force behind energy/power that charges our cell phones, computers, etc. ? Wow.
Gravity takes on a new shape with Cell Phones and Brakes
Have you ever wondered how a car is able to determine when to activate the anti-lock brake system?
How about the reason some cell phone screens can turn sideways?
Meagan shared that the accelerometer is a portion of the MEMS technology that measures gravity in things large and small. I'm grateful for MEMS and accelerometers (and the awesome engineers responsible for this new technology) that keeps us safe and gives some of us "a different view" via mobile technologies and mini-computers.
Yeah, but You are Smart
Meagan was excited about the outreach projects she worked on with TI clients and continued serving as a change agent in a variety of communities throughout the country beyond her time with TI.
The perception that one student is smarter than another student is one of the major issues that Meagan has to address during her presentations. Here are a few examples of what she shares.
Meagan wants all youth to understand that
- Being Smart = Being Creative!
- Think about the big picture in all that do and decide how to be an significant part of that larger picture, that larger world.
- Engineering involves more than robotics.
- Engineers develop things and processes that make our lives simpler and more enjoyable... like your games, technology, and environmental
- Environmental engineers create renewable energy sources like solar panels.
- Industrial engineers are responsible for the types of ergonomics that determine some of our most comfortable desk chairs.
- Chemical engineers design perfume and make up.
- Consider the global impact that you can have by engineering designs that help increase the water supply globally.
- There is an important interaction between scientists and engineers, but they are different.
- An engineer earns their status through a certain education. But, anyone can think like an engineer by designing or creating something that is needed to fulfill a certain function in the world. So, start using your vision and opinions to improve something.
Meagan's message to parents is
- You provide your child's best opportunity to develop important math and science skills.
- Have positive conversations with your daughters about math and science (even if you didn't perform well in school--but don't pass on the negative experiences). Your opinions and perceptions influence how far they are willing to grow their abilities.
- You don't need to love math or science to cultivate a desire to perform well in these subjects. You can learn with your children by listening to them and supporting them in different ways.
- Get your child the help that they need as soon as you notice they need it.
- Challenge your children to defy those negative messages and societal opinions that "only girls/women can" or "that's what boys/men do".
- Make sure that your children are always learning how to "apply" the concepts they learned in a variety of ways (draw a picture, write a story problem, work backwards to check the answer).
- Let your daughters play with Legos and all types of building blocks to help them build incredible problem solving skills and ways to turn things around.
- Let your daughters and sons connect with individuals who are in career fields you are unaware of so that they can explore.
- Point out that there are several males in nursing and females designing computer games.
- There is no limit to what your child can accomplish with your support.
When Will I Ever Use This?
Meagan tells and shows students that the critical thinking skills involved with solving the higher level math, science and engineering tasks helps them stand out in college and the workplace. When they take courses in math and science it is simply to prepare them to solve problems without fear. Students may not apply that specific type of math or science in their career field, but the process of problem solving arms them with the ability to do great things like helping the environment, impacting their local and global communities, and managing their lives more efficiently and effectively.
The Meagan Ross Consulting company has developed a unique relationship with school counselors to help them better guide students towards exploring engineering as a career. She has had an opportunity to help counselors provide this guidance through becoming better informed and excited about engineering.
Meagan uses her computer science skills as a hobby to build websites and to develop simple programs. She even uses several of the skills from her high school and college math and science courses to create powerful algorithms.
It was a pleasure learning more about Meagan Ross and her vision for improving the way we view engineering. I only wish I could have been in her cool session for girls about the lesson titled: "How to fit a Ham Sandwich in Your Ipod" during the Sally Ride Science Festival. "Bread, cheese, ham, and transmitors"! Oh my!
Keep up with Meagan's endeavors and be one of the first to congratulate her upon receiving her Ph.D. degree on her website, @MeaganRoss , or facebook.
More about MEMS
More about MEMS
P.O.W.E.R. Organization is a 501c3 organization that helps youth SEE, SAY, and DO Math! This spotlight provides ongoing awareness about "real people" in STEM careers that are making a powerful difference and want to help children discover meaningful careers.
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