Inspiring young women

Holly McKissick

When asked what's in her backpack, Holly McKissick, a recent graduate in biomedical engineering, has a unique reply: "A toothbrush robot," she says.

As president of the U's chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), she uses the easy-to-make robots (they consist of a toothbrush head, a battery, a vibrating cell-phone motor, and some eyeball stickers) as a fun engagement tool at outreach events.

At two events—one in the fall and another in the spring—SWE brings 100 to 150 high-school girls and their families to campus for a day of panel discussions, tours, activities (such as making toothbrush robots), and one-on-one time with female College of Science and Engineering students.

McKissick knows firsthand how influential these events can be; attending an on-campus SWE event when she was in high school was a big factor in her decision to come to the U.

"When I saw the community that SWE had built, I knew I'd have a support network, which was really important to me as a woman going into engineering," she says.

While here, her studies have been challenging, but have opened new avenues of discovery. McKissick says the cross-disciplinary nature of research here was especially inspiring.

"If we're going to solve some of these grand challenges ... it's going to take more than just one specialty," she says.
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities