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General Motors Celebrates Women in STEM Excellence Through EcoCAR Awards

To recognize and celebrate the exceptional contributions of women in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), General Motors proudly sponsored the EcoCAR Women in STEM Awards at the Year 2 Competition. These awards serve as a beacon of inspiration, honoring women across diverse STEM disciplines who showcase remarkable technical prowess and achievements within the EcoCAR program.

Ten finalists emerged from the pre-submission process, showcasing their exceptional talents and dedication to STEM. During the presentations, a recurring theme emerged—the confidence gap and its potential to hinder women in STEM from applying to jobs, voicing opinions in meetings, or aspiring to leadership roles. The panel of judges took this opportunity to encourage all participants to believe in their brilliance and not let self-doubt dampen their spirits. They emphasized the importance of seeking mentors, celebrating achievements, and recognizing the invaluable contributions that women bring to STEM fields.

The recipient of the 2nd place award, Morgan Bartley from West Virginia University, stood out for her unwavering passion for STEM and the automotive industry. Morgan, who earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Engineering from WVU in May 2022, just recently graduated with a Master of Science degree in Software Engineering. Her journey with EcoCAR began in Connected and Automated Vehicles then transitioned to the Equity in Mobility Lead. Her primary focuses were to foster an inclusive lab environment and organize team bonding activities to ensure a safe and supportive team environment.

One of Morgan’s significant contributions to her team was establishing a robust Equity in Mobility (EiM) objective and collaborating with Morgan State University, a Historically black colleges and university (HBCU) in Batimore, MD. Their joint effort focused on finding optimal ways to visually alert drivers. Engaging directly with deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals in rural West Virginia, she gained firsthand insights into their mobility challenges. This experience informed further research and partnerships, including work with the West Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind on STEM outreach. Collaborating with the West Virginia Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing ensured alignment with community needs. Together, they strategically selected an EiM objective to address mobility challenges for the deaf and hard-of-hearing community, showcasing the integration of engineering skills with societal needs and fostering impactful solutions through collaboration.

Morgan’s advocacy for diversity and accessibility, coupled with her deep involvement in community initiatives, exemplifies her commitment to making a positive impact. With a supportive team by her side, Morgan is poised to achieve great success in STEM

The recipient of the 1st pace Women in STEM award, Gianna Distefano who is also an Equity and Mobility Lead for the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and Bethune Cookman University Team. Gianna is currently earning her Master of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering at Embry-Riddle. She often extends her work outside of her subteam and serves as the primary liaison for the Human Machine Interface / User Experience group as well as Project Management.  

Gianna’s efforts with revamping the team’s vehicle testing process was integral to the team’s success in Year 2. In collaboration with the Project Management subteam, Gianna’s efforts towards ensuring clarity and efficiency while providing equal opportunities for non-core engineering team members to interact with the LYRIQ were significant. This overhaul encompassed the development of a comprehensive test plan pipeline, including roles and responsibilities, risk evaluation, linked test cases, data logging, complete test locations with routes IDs, detailed procedures, equipment lists, and approval stages. The process also incorporated an after-action report to document notable events and personnel notes. These enhancements not only streamlined the testing procedure but also facilitated thorough documentation and accountability throughout the testing phase, ultimately contributing to the team’s successful interaction and testing with the LYRIQ.

Most notably, Gianna works to ensure that the ERAU BCU female team members are provided with equal opportunity to work, lead, and showcase themselves on the team, which has continued our team’s trend of having a 50%-50% distribution of men and women in the team leadership. Gianna’s infectious enthusiasm, engaging personality, and clear sense of purpose captivated the judges. Her poignant narrative on the importance of accessibility resonated deeply, highlighting her steadfast belief in gender equality in STEM. With unwavering confidence and a clear vision for the future, Gianna is destined to be a trailblazer in the world of STEM.

The General Motors Women in STEM Awards serve as a testament to the immense talent and potential of women in STEM fields. Congratulations to Morgan and Gianna, and all presenters who are set to be future leaders who will pave the way for a more inclusive and diverse STEM community.

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