Designed for Action: Recent Electrical Engineering Graduate Volunteers at Robotics Camp
At York College, students aren’t just reading textbooks and listening to lectures. They’re working on community projects, solving real-world problems, and using their education to effect change. In Designed for Action, we meet the students who are making an impact outside of the classroom.
Mikayla Trost ’22 wants to see more girls aspire to be engineers and enroll in engineering degree programs.
Trost, who recently graduated from YCP with a degree in Electrical Engineering, was one of three students who volunteered for a Robotics Workshop held at Kinsley Engineering Center in July. The workshop, open to middle school and high school students in grades nine through 11, was sponsored by The Engineering Society of York, The FirstEnergy Foundation, and The Fred Dallmeyer Fund at the York County Community Foundation.
The goal of the workshop, initially held in June 2018, was getting more women interested in engineering and STEM trades, in general. It was originally intended only for girls, but because COVID pushed the number of participants below a desirable level, this year the workshop was coed.
“There's a huge gender disparity within engineering,” Trost says. “I think in my classes at York there were three or four girls, which in all honesty, was pretty impressive in and of itself.”
Trost understands firsthand the importance of getting more women to look at studying STEM fields and having women in engineering as role models.
“I was on an all-girls robotics team in high school, and so I got a lot of that influence. I cannot tell you how valuable it is to see girls in engineering,” she says. “And the fact that you see them and you see them doing it and they're really successful in it allows you to say, ‘OK, I can do this, too.’”
During the two-day robotics camp, students learned basic coding and circuitry, and were introduced to the robotics field. They also met a local prosthetics doctor and even programmed their own robots.
“We do an exercise using robots called M bots,” Trost says. “Using code developed by the students, the infrared sensors located on the bottom of the robots then determine the black versus the white background, allowing progression through the maze.”
While robotics is not Trost’s chosen career path, she became involved in the camp because she wants to serve as an example to women looking at STEM as a possible career path, much like her own mentors did.
“I'm more passionate about inspiring the next generation of robotics students, especially with the gender disparity,” Trost says.
During her time at YCP, Trost took courses in the Computer Science, Mechanical and Civil Engineering course progressions to help her achieve the goal of becoming a systems engineer. This helped her gain confidence in taking on responsibilities outside of electrical engineering and strengthened her ability to lead a multidisciplinary team.
She highlights YCP’s Engineering Co-op program, which allows students to work in the field of their choosing for three semesters. “I went to Tesla for my last internship. That was an amazing opportunity, because I worked alongside many different types of engineers in manufacturing, controls, quality, and data,” Trost says. “This allowed me to practice what I learned in a fast-paced team environment and confirmed this was the path I wanted to go in. I enjoyed the internship so much so that I accepted a full-time engineering position with Tesla.”
Her additional internships exposed her to other paths she could take in engineering.
“My first internship was a project management-focused internship with a nuclear company. And my second internship was a research-based internship with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), during which I conducted research from start to finish,” Trost says.
Trost credits her York College education for helping her succeed.
“I have never felt inferior at York at all. I'm at the top of my class,” Trost says. “That's in part due to my classmates and my professors and how supportive they've been these last four years. And so, I think in that realm, York is a great place, especially for girls to come and be successful in engineering.”