‘Girls can do unimaginable things:’ Conference inspires Utah girls to pursue STEM careers

amcelweeMaking the Grade: Utah works to improve its marks in STEM education Utah Business May 8, 2018News

CLEARFIELD — Erica Sandoval said when she started college, she thought she wanted to be a fashion designer.

But little did she know, years later she would discover — believe it or not — sewing wasn’t too different than rocket science.

“Sewing is taking different pieces of cloth and putting them together,” she said. “Sewing is assembling, and making a rocket is assembling. Once I figured that out, I realized I could do engineering — it’s just understanding parts and figuring out how they go together.”

Now a rocket scientist — a senior principal manufacturing engineer at Orbital ATK, the global aerospace and defense technologies company — Sandoval said she’s not only got ultimate “bragging rights,” but she’s also got a cool, high-paying and rewarding career.

Today, Sandoval is a lead engineer working on a rocket launch abort system for NASA’s next rocket to launch astronauts in space — a system to safely eject astronauts back to Earth if something goes wrong. Sandoval told her career story Saturday to an auditorium full of girls in sixth through ninth grades attending the Expanding Your Horizons conference at North Davis Junior High in Clearfield.

The conference — in its 17th year — was sponsored by Orbital ATK in partnership with Davis School District and the Utah Math/Science Network. More than 400 girls attended this year’s conference, part of a national effort to inspire young women to pursue careers in math, science, engineering and technology.

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