This STEM star’s future is bright
While women make up about half of the workforce in Illinois, they hold about one in four jobs in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM). But Traja Williams isn’t letting that hold her back from chasing her dream of becoming an engineer.
As a summer intern at Exelon Utilities and incoming freshman at Northern Illinois University pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering with an emphasis in mechatronics and robotics, Williams is on track for a career in STEM. But her interest in engineering started long ago.
“Growing up, I would take things apart to just put them back together,” Williams said.
Although she was a born natural, she didn’t fully realize the possibilities of a STEM career until she was in high school.
“When I started high school, we got to pick an elective,” she said. “My options were choir, art and engineering. I chose engineering.”
Williams applied the skills she learned in school to real-life experiences and took hold of every opportunity that came her way.
She was chosen to be a part of the ComEd Icebox Derby, a STEM education program where she worked with other students and professional engineers to transform a recycled refrigerator into electric and solar-enhanced racecar.
“I like working with my hands, so I thought Icebox Derby would be a good learning experience,” she said.
She also participated in the ComEd Solar Spotlight Program, a hands-on educational program where students learn and apply key principles of solar energy. Williams worked to help design a 7-foot solar-powered art installation that is now on display in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood.
“The two programs deepened my love for engineering,” she said. “I learned about teamwork and the importance of accuracy.”
Through hard work, dedication and taking advantage of every opportunity, Williams is defying the odds and defining what it means to be a woman in STEM.