The National Academy of Engineering has named Lillie Williams an Engineer Girl Ambassador and invited her to attend the Women’s Engineers Conference in Anaheim, California, in November.
Williams, a rising senior at Draughn High School and dual enrollee at the North Carolina School of Science and Math, applied for the ambassador position and is one of 16 high school female students from across the country to be chosen. Her proposal included creating an outreach project to help interest elementary school girls in engineering. In addition to attending the three-day conference, Williams will receive a $250 grant to carry out her project back home.
Williams plans to host a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) Day at Mountain View Elementary School next summer and invite underrepresented minorities, specifically Hispanic females. They will be creating different chemical products, such as lip balm.
“I wanted to focus on a discipline of engineering that would grab their interest,” Williams said “Many girls think of engineering as building bridges or building machinery. There is so much more to engineering, and this is why I feel a focus on chemical engineering will be a draw to these young girls. I hope it will expand their knowledge of STEM (and) engineering and make them excited about learning.”
At the Women’s Engineers Conference, the largest of its kind, Williams will receive training on how to create her one-day program at Mountain View. She also will be able to meet and network with other women engineers.
“I, along with 15 other national Engineering Girl Ambassadors, will be actively involved in the conference, presenting our projects, meeting with engineers and working with students at a hands-on exhibit that we are in charge of," Williams said.
Mountain View fifth-grade teacher Kim Cotter is Williams’ sponsor. The National Academy of Engineering will pay for Cotter to travel with Williams to the conference, as well as pay for a sub for her for the days she will be away.
Williams said her love of engineering began when she was in middle school. While in her math and science classes, she started to see the connection between learning in the classroom and the real world.
She has started touring colleges and would like to become a biomedical engineer, possibly pursuing the area of pharmacy.
“Earlier this year, I had the privilege of taking a biomedical engineering course through NCSSM, which solidified my decision to pursue engineering as a career,” she said. “It was extremely interesting to see how engineering is incorporated into the medical field.”
Williams is spending the summer at the Governor’s School West for mathematics and through the NCSSM, she has been able to learn about different topics and meet others who share the same interests.
“Both NCSSM and Governor’s School have given me unbelievable opportunities,” she said. “Serving as an NCSSM Student Ambassador has given me a desire to make connections outside my comfort zone. I am thankful to Burke County Public Schools for helping to make this opportunity available to me.”
Larry Putnam , superintendent of Burke County Public Schools, shared his thoughts about the appointment.
“We are proud of Lillie and encourage her to take her passion for engineering as far as it will take her,” Putnam said. “We look forward to seeing her project come to fruition next summer as she passes down her love for engineering to younger girls. As a budding engineer who is pursuing her interests, Lillie is an excellent role model for other female students.”
For girls who may think they could not succeed in the engineering field, Williams offers encouragement for them not to feel intimidated, to stay motivated and to challenge themselves.
“I would also encourage girls to make connections to engineering even if they have a desire to work with cosmetics, perfumes, fabrics, etc.,” she said. “Chemical engineering is a vital part of this industry. When I was younger, my parents would always share with me how females were certainly capable of being engineers. My dad shared with me about a professor at NC State whose job was to recruit females into engineering. This motivated me to possibly seek out this type of opportunity.”
Williams is the daughter of Charles and Heather Williams. Charles is the principal at Valdese Elementary School and Heather is a former Burke County Public Schools teacher.