Written by: Dana Berry, University of Alabama Freshman
Through female leadership, The University of Alabama’s EcoCAR 3 team has proven it has the grit necessary to navigate this complex competition. While rounding out the fourth year of the intense competition, the UA team and the women that comprise it make a clear statement: These five women of Alabama’s EcoCAR 3 team represent a new wave of STEM-educated female engineers.
Cat Meyn is a junior from Crystal Lake, Illinois. As a mechanical engineering major, she loves to get her hands dirty. When Cat wasn’t coding in high school, she was working on vehicles with her brother, so EcoCAR 3 was a natural draw. Cat is a member of the mechanical team responsible for the car’s engine and other mechanics. “I would like us to perform really well at competition and compete and complete all our dynamic events,” Meyn said.
When asked what she would tell young women interested in STEM, “Go for it,” Meyn said. “STEM has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. It’s incredibly fun, it’s hands on. STEM activities are an amazing challenge, and that’s what I like about it.” Cat is on the STEM path to an MBA and hopes to work in project management.
Claire Parker is a senior from Madison, Wisconsin, majoring in electrical engineering, math and physics, and is the assistant to the project manager for the EcoCAR 3 team. In this role, she supports the tech leads, the engineering manager and others to ensure smooth communication and project management. Parker first became interested in STEM because of the opportunities after college and the focus on analytics. Parker joined EcoCAR 3 as a sophomore for the chance to combine her interests in business and engineering. “You can’t have one without the other,” Parker said. Parker created an onboarding process for new members of the EcoCAR team to help them adjust and quickly find ways to contribute to the project. “In a lot of different ways, I think what you learn on EcoCAR in terms of working on a team, working with other people and keeping track of your time are just so easily applicable to the real world that you’re in,” Parker said.
Ashley Grooms is a junior mechanical engineering major from Cincinnati, Ohio. Grooms grew up in the garage working on cars with her dad, which sparked an interest in STEM and led her to form a competitive engineering club at her all-girls Catholic high school. She is new to the EcoCAR 3 team this year but was excited to gain hands-on experience with coding and software. Like Meyn, Grooms is a member of the mechanical team and works with the ride and handling team as well. Grooms plans to apply what she’s learned from EcoCAR 3 to an internship this summer with automotive company and eventually hopes to work in the automotive or heavy equipment industry. To young women looking to enter a STEM field, Grooms said, “Never be scared to join something like EcoCAR where you can get that hands-on experience. I think hands on experience is the number one thing that you can get out of college.”
Hannah Larson is a senior mechanical engineering major from Hearse, Texas. Growing up on a farm and working in her grandfather’s mechanic shop, Larson knew she wanted to pursue a STEM career from a young age. After working with the mechanical team as a freshman and sophomore, Larson switched to the computer science side of mechanical engineering, where she found the right fit. Larson leads the systems modeling and simulation team, which uses a virtual simulation to develop a control code that makes the car work. Her goal for this year’s UA team is to finish in the top five in the Year 4 Competition. Larson plans to intern with Bosch this summer, then start graduate school and eventually pursue a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering. “It doesn’t matter who you are or what you are, if you work hard and you recognize the opportunities given to you and you take advantage of those, you’re going to be successful.”
Haley Loftis, from Kansas City, Missouri, is a graduate student in the MBA program after earning an electrical engineering degree last year. She currently serves as the project manager for EcoCAR 3. Haley stumbled across EcoCAR 3 her senior year, and knowing she wanted to join a project that dealt more with electromechanical systems than the computer software side of engineering, she jumped at the opportunity. During the Year 3 competition, Haley won the General Motors Women in Engineering award, and her expectations are high for this year’s team. “We’ve really learned a lot as a new team, so it’s all starting to come together this year in terms of our vehicle integration,” Loftis said. “We were a little behind on that, but during that time we were able to get ahead in other areas – our controls and simulations. So now that everything is at the level where it needs to be, I would love to see us complete all dynamic events at competition and be competitive with other team’s vehicles.” Her ultimate goal is to go into project management.