Interview with Ms. Catherine Knutson

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“You can be whatever you want to be when you grow up.”

Today, I had the privilege of interviewing Ms. Catherine Knutson, a mentor for FRC Team 2987, Rogue Robotics.

What was your first memorable experience with the sciences?

I know that I took computer science classes in my last year of high school, and I really enjoyed it.

Did someone inspire you to pursue a career in STEM? If so, tell us your story.

My mother inspired me to pursue a career in STEM, and told me that I could be anything that I wanted to be.

What is it about STEM that most excites you?

Just that women have a lot to contribute in the STEM area. We have more creative ways of thinking. I think that the diversity helps. There are many different ways of solving problems, and approaching a problem from different directions can lead to a variety of good solutions.

What is the most interesting STEM-based project that you have worked on?

That’s an easy one! Of course, it’s our robot. I started helping with the programming team, but now, I help with the “build team.” This year, we built a dial which feeds balls into the shooter. I was mostly working with ninth graders, and spent some time corralling them, in addition to teaching them how to build. We actually got an award [for the dial] because it would jam, and then we wrote a program to un-jam it. We won the Innovation in Control Award for that.

If you could solve any problem that your community, state, or even the world is afflicted with, what would it be? Why?

I’d solve the immigration issue. I think it would be wonderful to take everyone coming into the United States and welcome them.

As a woman in STEM, what obstacles have you overcome in order to be successful?

There are a lot of stereotypes. For one of my first jobs, I was working for Cray, and I worked near the mail room. Everyone assumed that I worked in the mail room, and it used to make me really mad.

How would you define success?

Success is if you’re happy in your career, and happy with your family life. It is important to balance your work and home life. Success is about enjoying what you do at work, and bringing that home.

What advice do you have for young women who are up and coming in the world of STEM?
The same advice that my mother gave me: follow your dreams, and do what you want to do. You can be whatever you want to be when you grow up.

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