Ashley Yao is 18 years old and currently lives in Riverside, California. She is going to attend Cal Poly SLO this fall as a civil engineering major.
How did you first become involved with STEM?
My dad worked for NASA when I was really little. I think a combination of his inspiration and visiting the Johnson Space Center led me to really appreciate STEM fields.
What do you enjoy about science, technology, math, or engineering?
I love that engineering is about solving problems to help people and make lives better.
What did you think about STEM before you were involved? How have your views changed over time?
I can't really think of a time before STEM in my life. However my idea of what STEM is constantly changes. Currently, I'm obsessed with how STEM and design connect. The Civil Engineering Architecture class I'm taking through my high school has let the two fields meld together which has really fascinated me. What I really enjoy about it is watching aesthetic and mathematics combine to create really interesting, sound structures.
Have stereotypes ever influenced your view of STEM and what you do? Have you ever encountered any bias due to your gender or another factor?
I think in the back of my mind I always chose civil engineering because there seemingly was less hands on building involved. Previously I've never really had the chance to learn how to use tools which I think is partially due to a lack of motivation and need for girls to use tools. I've recently discovered the opposite and am slowly making my way around tools. Whenever I try to learn most of my male friends get impatient if it's teamwork and will pester me. Also, when my best friend and I founded the Women in Engineering club associated with the Society of Women Engineers at my school, there was a lot of opposition from some of the males at my school. Oftentimes, I also find that a lot of my STEM teachers have preferences to male students. I think it's a culmination of all of these little differences and attitudes that create a less encouraging environment for women in STEM.
Why do you think that more girls should be interested in STEM?
I think more girls should be interested in STEM because there are so many advances still to be made in STEM. Girls think differently than guys which I think could offer new perspectives to the field and eventually better society as a whole.
Do you see yourself having a career in a STEM field in the future (if you don't already)? If so, do you have a dream job or company?
Yes. I would love to work for AECOM, since the company works on city skyscrapers and urban planning. The company also is located in several large cities and countries I would love to work in.
Have you created anything that you would like to tell us about?
I have a YouTube Channel with which I plan to utilize more. I also have created several buildin designs on revit I'm highly proud of. I'm also a part of the Architecture and Civil Engineering Mentor Program at my school where I have built a shear wall and designed a cube project.
What advice do you have for beginners?
Just go for it. If it's not great at first those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind. With practice you'll get there eventually. This is honestly advice for myself too since I'm still a student.
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