We had the chance to sit down and talk with one of the first recipients of the inaugural Open Rivers Scholarship, Jill Rodgers, a Bethel High School graduate now studying Mechanical Engineering at Bucknell University. We spent some time learning more about her passions, why she is pursuing a STEM field and why the environment matters to her.
OR: What drew you to engineering?
JR: I have always enjoyed working with my hands to create things. Whether it was quilting, helping with construction projects or disassembling and rebuilding toys, I loved doing it. In high school, I had the opportunity to do some projects in robotics and those experiences helped me decide that mechanical engineering was something that I would like to pursue.
OR: You are now in your first semester at college. Now that you’ve started your college career, has your focus changed at all?
JR: In our first semester things are still general and theoretical. We are learning about the different areas of engineering. I still plan to focus on robotics and other hands-on applications, but I have discovered areas like biomedical engineering which I find incredibly fascinating.
OR: Your first semester sounds like it’s going great! What kinds of new opportunities have you experienced at Bucknell?
JR: The most amazing thing has to be the Mooney lab. It is a machine shop that has technicians available to guide us in learning how to use all sorts of incredible industrial machines. We have access to it day and night and are able to work on personal projects in addition to our school studies. Beyond that is access to research projects. We are encouraged to join on to staff-led projects that we find interesting and they are great about getting us up to speed on the material and including us in the research projects. There is also a study abroad program available to us, where we can take a semester in a foreign country and see how their engineers approach the problems in their own backyards. I haven’t decided if or where I would go, but it is an exciting prospect nonetheless!
OR: What problems or challenges do you see out in the world that you would like to use your skills to address?
JR: The nice thing about engineering is that once I have a good foundation of knowledge, there are so many areas I could work on! Ultimately, I would like to use machines to solve bigger problems. For instance, I was recently at an environmental engineering seminar about building. The focus was on using 3D printing combined with a new environmentally friendly “green concrete” to rapidly fabricate environmentally friendly structures. The idea that I could help to address issues facing us as a society and contribute to solutions for homelessness, disaster relief, or urban renewal is very appealing to me and something I’m looking forward to.
OR: At Open Rivers, we are very focused on conservation and taking care of the environment. Why are conservation and the environment important to you? What type of engagement would you like to have with these areas going forward?
JR: We are all conservationists to some extent. This is the only planet we have and we all have to live on it. Bucknell is really preparing us to solve the problems of tomorrow. Many of those problems are going to be related to the environment and I’m excited that I can help to develop some of the solutions. Professors here are researching a wide variety of things, including applications for the aforementioned green concrete, wind turbines and even using algae to create alternative fuels. We as students can participate in these and other projects and I think it will help me and my fellow classmates to hit the ground running when we graduate!
We would like to thank Jill for taking the time to participate and wish her all the best going forward!