Alison's Story

Six years ago, I competed in the EngineerGirl! Essay Contest. I did so because the contest sounded like it would be fun.

While preparing my essay, I learned what a difference engineers make in every aspect of my life.  It also convinced me that studying to be an engineer would prepare me for any opportunity life presented.  Being recognized by the EngineerGirl! Essay Contest (my essay), gave me the confidence to immediately pursue engineering.

While preparing for the EngineerGirl! Essay Contest I learned that engineering is a way of thinking about problems and how to solve them. Most importantly, I discovered that I did not have to wait until college to become a self-taught engineer.

As the result of a huge storm in 2007, the radio announced that the water being piped into homes in my area may be contaminated. A friend, Hannah, called and asked if she could determine if the water from her home’s faucet was potable, using materials found around her house. After some Internet document research, I told her the answer was no. Hannah’s call inspired three years of science research and now the answer is yes using a cell-phone, a mirror and a plastic bag.

One of the delights of science is that just when you think you are bound in one direction, an observation will send you somewhere else. While verifying the range and assurance of my home water testing device, I made a discovery.  I noticed that when Colilert-18 was mixed with water containing bacteria, a momentary color change occurred. Additionally, I found that the higher concentration of bacteria in the sample, the darker the color I would observe. This discovery inspired my research for the past year.

As a result of this research, I was selected as an Intel STS finalist for my engineering project.

I have personal firsthand knowledge that with a little insight and a lot of work, even a shoebox can be converted into a device which can save hundreds of lives every day in every country.  In short, girls need not wait until college to start to learn how to be an engineer. They can make a difference now.