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ERAU and BCU women in STEM lead the EV charge

Written by: Skye Myers

The Embry-Riddle / Bethune Cookman EcoCAR EV Challenge team strives for equal female representation on their collaborative team. Currently, 40% of the student leadership positions are held by women, which include one undergraduate student, two masters’ students, and one PH.D. student: Skye Myers, Gianna Distefano, Rachel Abbott, and Molly Mersinger, respectively. Meet the female leadership below!

Skye Myers is a sophomore at Embry-Riddle, studying Mechanical Engineering with a concentration in Robotics and minors in Chemistry and Russian. She is planning to continue her education studying nuclear engineering for her master’s and would like to work overseas to allow her to travel. This is her second year with the EcoCAR team, and she is the Communications Manager. She is also Vice President of Harm Reduction in the Eta Tau chapter of the Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority where she focuses on educating her chapter on harmful behaviors and activities as well as preventing hazing in the Embry-Riddle Greek community.

Gianna Distefano is the DEI (Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion) manager on the Embry-Riddle side of the team. She started college at ERAU in Fall of 2017, originally studying Aerospace Engineering but switched to Mechanical Engineering with a concentration in Biomedical Systems in her junior year. Gianna graduated in the summer of 2022 and started her master’s program in the fall of 2022. This is her first year with the EcoCAR team and is currently working with the HMI team on a wiring system that works for color-blind people, and she works with the whole team in all aspects of DEI to create a safe and comfortable work environment. She plans to get her Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering and work in a lab that studies stem cell engineering and 3D bioprinting of organs.

Rachel Abbott transferred to Embry-Riddle in the spring of 2021, her junior year, to complete her bachelor’s degree on the accelerated master’s track. She completed her bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering with a concentration in High-Performance Vehicles and a minor in Applied Mathematics. She will complete her master’s in Mechanical Engineering in the spring of 2023. This is Rachel’s 3rd year with the team and is the current PCM (Propulsion Controls & Modeling) lead for the team. Rachel accepted a job offer from General Motors and will be taking part in a rotation program for two years before figuring out a set job title.

Molly Mersinger completed her bachelor’s degree at the University of Evansville in Evansville, IN, where she triple majored in Cognitive Science, Neuroscience, and Psychology with a minor in Philosophy from 2016 to 2020. During that time, Molly studied abroad at Harlaxton College in Grantham, England, in the Spring of 2018 and at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary, in Fall of 2018. She is currently a 2nd year Ph.D. student in the Human Factors program at ERAU and is expected to graduate in 2025. This is her second year on the EcoCAR team, and first year as the HMI/UX team lead. Some of her accomplishments include: publishing 3 articles, having 3 more articles accepted for publication, and working with industry, military, and government programs. Here is a quote from Molly about the current HMI/UX team:

“Right now, the HMI/UX team is focusing on how to incorporate inclusivity and equity in the design process for different car features and interfaces including the driver monitoring system. We have also helped the senior design team this last semester by providing them with personas for different trims that can be used on the LYRIQ. These worked to highlight ways to make each of these trims more inclusive. We also provided the senior design team with results from a user needs survey where we surveyed 300 people about different aspects of the 3 possible trim types.”

The ERAU/BCU EcoCAR team is grateful for all these ambitious women on our team. As the program grows, the team continues to pursue diversity in all aspects of the competition. Creating an inclusive program that can facilitate personal and educational growth, is what the Embry-Riddle and Bethune-Cookman are striving towards.