Hey SciCheer fans! Megan here excited to introduce our newest SciCheer, Colleen. She was a former Bay Area Shuckers Cheerleader and has a B.S. and M.S. in Fire Protection Engineering and she’ll be joining us at the USA Science and Engineering Festival next month. Read on for more details!

What turned you onto STEM and when?
Both of my parents are engineers, and my father is a fire protection engineer. He inspired me to enter this specific field of engineering because fire protection engineering in particular is all about people and designing systems that keep them safe. I was also attracted to engineering because it involves utilizing math, problem solving, and critical thinking skills.

Why did you try out to be a cheerleader?
I auditioned for the Bay Area Shuckers Dance Team because I always loved performing since I was young and wanted to continue to do so after college (I was on the Maryland Gymkana Troupe at UMD where I did non-competitive gymnastics including flipping through fire!).

What’s a day on the job like for you?
The main goal of any fire protection engineering work is always to design functional systems in buildings that have the ability to keep people safe from fire and other hazards. On most of my typical jobs, I use computer drafting programs to design fire alarm and sprinkler systems that are compliant with the applicable codes. Before a design goes into being built, I usually have several progress meetings with other members of my team to make sure that we have the best design possible.

How do the qualities that made you a great cheerleader benefit you in your engineering career?
Like cheerleading, engineering requires you to collaborate with others to put together something great. Teamwork is important whether you are performing on the court/field or designing a project to fit a customer’s needs. I have also found that the spirit and enthusiasm I picked up from cheerleading translate directly into my outlook on life and the work that I do.

What was your best cheerleading experience?
I always enjoyed watching the Shuckers take down their rival Beltway Bombers, especially my 3rd year on the team when they won and I also was named Dancer of the Game on the same night.

What was your best engineering experience? My junior year at Maryland, we had the opportunity to go to the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute headquarters in College Park and got to experience a day as a firefighter. We got to put out a fire, stand in a room with a fire going in full firefighter turnout gear, and climb through and obstacle course in the dark. It was a really neat experience to get a feel for what it’s like to be a first responder.

What advice would you give your 12-year-old self?
Live in the present and know that you can and will accomplish anything you want. You are here for a reason and your purpose is to make a difference in as many lives as possible.

What’s one thing people might find especially surprising about you?
I know some sign language and I’m also a former Miss Fire Prevention for the state of Maryland!

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