Lifetime Learner

AUTHOR: Nina Welding

PUBLISHED: March 15, 2019

Cristina Chavez has known she wanted to be an engineer since fifth grade when her final science project was to work as part of a group creating and programming a LEGO robot to compete against other robots on an obstacle course. “I loved every second of that project and joined a robotics club the following year,” she says.

In high school Chavez continued to follow her love of robotics, learning more about power tools and 3D printers to give her team a competitive edge. Today, this junior mechanical engineering major [and science, technology, and society minor] is still working with power tools and 3D printers. She’s a teaching assistant (TA) in the Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering Student Fabrication Lab/Makerspace located in Stinson-Remick Hall of Engineering. As a TA, she trains other students on the equipment and helps them if they have difficulties.

Chavez, who is also a member of the Notre Dame chapter of the Society of Women Engineers, encourages young girls to study science, technology, engineering, and mathematics through activities such as the chapter’s annual Girl Scout Day. She and other mentors lead the scouts through a series of engineering based activities and share their experiences with the girls, including what classes to take. “Take more than just engineering courses. General requirement courses,” she says, “force you to think in a different frame of mind, to tackle problems from a new perspective, and to learn how to convey your ideas in a way that makes sense. This makes you a more well-rounded person who is able to complete difficult engineering tasks but also able to explain your thoughts to those without a technical degree, connecting to engineers and non-engineers alike.”