Cate Schlobohm was always a fan of engineers. She was always fascinated by the way they think, the way they problem solve, and how they are always up for a challenge. In fact, Cate was more than just an admirer of engineering—she studied it. For three years of her undergraduate career, the 28-year-old West Virginia native studied industrial engineering and even landed two co-op positions in West Virginia and California in the automotive industry.
“It was during my co-ops that I realized I was more interested in strategic communications,” she said.
“When I returned to WVU, I changed my major, but was able to combine my engineering interests with public relations by interning for the Statler College of Engineering in the Communications Department.”
Soon after finding her passion for public relations, Cate heard about EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge and couldn’t wait to get involved. As a member of the communications team, Cate’s focus was on youth outreach, event planning, and training engineering team members to present to non-technical audiences.
“I really enjoyed watching the engineering team members share their passion for the project with K-12 students. Working with EcoCAR allowed me to see how important and fun it is to educate young students about opportunities in STEM fields in an exciting, engaging way,” she said.
Today, Cate serves as the Outreach Program Coordinator for West Virginia University’s Statler College of Engineering. Because of her EcoCAR involvement, she pushed for an outreach program within the college, and shortly thereafter, Cate was offered a brand new position that was created with her skill set in mind. In this role, she builds upon her EcoCAR 1 experiences to educate youth, recruit prospective engineering students, and organize engineering challenge camps throughout the summer months.
“Thankfully, I have been given the opportunity to grow and develop our robust outreach program alongside other people who have the same passions I do,” she said.
Five years after wrapping up the EcoCAR 1 competition, youth outreach is still the favorite part of Cate’s job. She understands the importance of engineering and uses her communications skills to teach kids about STEM’s impact in our day-to-day lives.
“Many students cannot name the different types of engineering, but when you give them examples of all the things created by engineers, they are surprised to find out engineering is more than cars and bridges,” she said.
Her advice to current communications students participating in EcoCAR 3?
“Don’t be intimidated by engineers. While they are intelligent, highly educated individuals, so are you! As a communication specialist, you possess a set of skills that works in concert with engineers’ skills. You can both be valuable assets to the team if you work together and learn from each other.”
From engineering student to outreach specialist, Cate Schlobohm’s professional journey is proof of the multidisciplinary aspect of not just AVTCs, but life after EcoCAR.