Hattie is a 14-year-old student aspiring to create a positive future for girls in STEM (science, technology, engineering, maths).
What do you do on an average work day?
Most of my time is spent at St Margaret’s College, my high school in Christchurch, where I take part in a variety of activities throughout the school day and in my own time.
My favourite thing to do is work in the Centre for Innovation, where I practically live! There I can work with robots, create my own Internet of Things devices, or design in CAD (Computer-Aided Design) software to use with the 3D printers or laser cutter.
When I’m not there, I love to fill up my time with activities like debating, chamber choir, and orchestra. I’m a member of the Middle School Arts Committee, which is really cool since technology is slowly being recognised as an art form as well, so I can help to lead the way in that respect at my school.
Another massive part of my life is Future Problem Solving, a programme where students all over the world work to solve generally STEM-based problems that could occur in the future. It really helps me to think about the areas of my life where I could strive to solve problems in the community, and ties really well in with technology, as after seeing these problems I can use technology as an enabler to help others.
I also lead various girls’ robotics clubs, with a range of age groups. This is one of my favourite things to do as it’s such a great feeling watching the girls’ faces light up as they start to get excited about robotics - something I have been so passionate about since the age of 5, when I first entered the Robocup competition and discovered my love for STEM.
What are you studying at high school?
This year, I get to take a wide range of subjects as I don’t have to choose many of my subjects yet.
But next year, for my first proper year of NCEA, I’ll be taking Chemistry, Physics, English, Digital Technology and Level 2 Spanish and Maths, which is really exciting!
Are your studies related to what you want to do as a career?
My ideal career would be as a mechatronics engineer, so my subjects align pretty well with this. I love all things STEM, and I also really enjoy taking a language as I find it helps me with learning coding languages.
One of my dreams, though, is to be able to teach young girls all over New Zealand (and maybe one day the world!) about STEM, and particularly robotics.
What would you like to share with young women who are thinking about their career choices right now?
Honestly, I’m still figuring that out for myself!
What I’ve heard being reiterated the most, though, is the whole idea of adaptability. Most of the jobs that will be available when girls like myself enter the workforce haven’t even created yet, and I think that’s awesome! That’s one of the main reasons I want to go into mechatronics engineering. I think it’s an often overlooked field that has so much potential for adaptability, and can be applied to almost anything.
I also think that not knowing what you want to do when you graduate from university, or even high school, is a really cool thing. It means that you get to figure it out as you go, and follow your passions. To me, that’s the ultimate goal.
What are some of your career highlights so far?
I think that one of my best achievements so far has been qualifying to attend the International Conference for Future Problem Solving (in America!) twice. It’s opened up so many amazing opportunities for me, and has really helped me to learn more about future technologies.
I have also been invited to talk at multiple events, and next year I’ll be speaking at the 2018 Tertiary ICT Conference in Christchurch. Being able to be a part of events like this allows me to be involved in the STEM community both nationwide and around the globe, which I think is pretty cool!
The thing that I’m the most proud of, though, is being able to teach younger girls how to be involved in robotics and other STEM activities. Although it’s not really an achievement, it’s something that I’m really passionate about and love doing. It makes me so happy to see the girls understand the content and develop their own love of the technology concepts and ideas that I began to love at their age too.
Why do you believe engaging in STEM is important to New Zealand?
I think that it’s really important for STEM to become more popular, particularly among us kids, because we need to establish ourselves as an innovative and future focused nation that (contrary to the beliefs of some) can work just as effectively as some of the larger countries around the world.
It will open more opportunities for kids and teenagers like myself to enter these fields and thrive in the future, and these subjects teach life long and easily applicable skills that can be used in most fields.
Why is it important to have more women working in STEM?
Women, and particularly women of colour, have been underrepresented for so long in these fields.
New Zealand might have been the first nation to grant women suffrage, but we still have a long way to go with regards to gender equality. Especially within STEM fields. Girls are being discouraged before they even begin to consider careers, and I think this is really sad.
When I was little, and just starting to get into the world of STEM, girls would be discouraged, particularly by their families. As they went off to join dance groups and commit more time to netball, I began to realise how big the gender gap in my favourite activities really was. I was pretty determined and self-assured, so spending hours upon hours being the only girl in a room full of louder boys didn’t really bother me. But I know that it bothered the other girls, and I want to be able to change that.
If more women are working in STEM, young girls will have great role models that they can aspire to be like. They can see that it does get better, that they won’t always be the only girl. They’ll realise that if they stay determined and passionate, they can do it. Representation of women in STEM is a cycle, and it’s our responsibility to kick start it. That’s why I believe we need more women in STEM.
Hattie is a 14-year-old student at St Margaret’s College, who is aspiring to create a positive future for girls in STEM.
This profile is part of our series of girls and women in STEM.
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