BYU Engineering Undergrad Aims to Improve the World

Last year in honor of Motorola Solutions' 90th anniversary, the Motorola Solutions Foundation partnered with SWE to equip the next generation of female engineers with 18 SWE Scholarships. Here, we learn about Heidi Johnson, a sophomore at Brigham Young University who hopes to engineer a better, healthier, happier planet.

Georgia Tech Students Benefit from Motorola Solutions Scholarship
BYU undergrad and SWE Member Heidi Johnson
Heidi Johnson

The Motorola Solutions Foundation seeks to benefit communities where Motorola Solutions operates by making strategic grants, forging strong partnerships and fostering innovation. One of the focuses is to support engineering programs that advance educational opportunities for underrepresented groups and students with financial need. Last year, in honor of Motorola Solutions’ 90th anniversary, the Motorola Solutions Foundation partnered with SWE to equip the next generation of female engineers with 18 SWE Scholarships! Here, we highlight recipient Heidi Johnson, a sophomore at Brigham Young University (BYU) who dreams of improving the world around her through environmental and mechanical engineering.

What is your name, hometown, school and engineering discipline?

My name is Heidi Johnson and I’m from Garland, TX. I attend Brigham Young University (BYU) and I’m studying mechanical engineering.

What role does SWE play in your collegiate career?

As the Communications Chair of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) chapter at BYU, our goal is to create opportunities for friendship, connections and support for women in STEM. This position is specifically important to me because I went to college in a different state, different community, different everything. I did not come with lifelong friends by my side, especially not ones that shared my devotion to engineering. Thankfully, I was automatically added to an email list for our SWE chapter, courtesy of the Communications Chair. With the little free time I had, I decided to attend some of their events. I loved it. The girls that came were all looking for friends and shared the same level of interest in the STEM fields. Had it not been for the Communications Chair, I would not have the friends and support I have today. In my new position in SWE BYU as Vice President, I hope to help support all the women engineers looking for a community at my school. I will have a greater platform to bring these women together and provide an opportunity for them to make meaningful connections. The fact that I get to be a member of such a strong society devoted to empowering women in an increasingly difficult field is inspiring, and I am proud to be a part of it.

How did you pick your engineering discipline?

As a member of the seemingly insignificant, minuscule middle school Math Counts Club, I participated in a competition that would forever define my future. As the leader of a team of eight students, we were tasked with creating innovative solutions to real world problems, such as aiding the homeless or renovating classrooms for underprivileged students. We combined the various visions of our team in order to engineer new ideas and concepts. A process that could only be described using one word: Visioneering (which just so happened to be the name of the event). This is where I fell in love with problem solving, and where I became increasingly interested in helping people through technology. This is where I finally learned who I wanted to become: an engineer.
The first orator at the Visioneering competition spoke on his involvement with a team that designed and created a new device for a former artist and now quadriplegic man. This man could communicate only by blinking and had seemingly no hope of practicing his passion of the arts again. That is until this team came together and engineered a device that granted this man the ability to again draw, using only his eyes. The amount of sheer joy that radiated from the engineer demonstrated to me how engineering can change lives. It changed the life of the paralyzed man who was given an incredible gift. It changed the life of the engineer speaker. And it changed my life. Engineering has the power to create a brighter future. Who could not be interested in that?

“Engineering has the power to create a brighter future. Who could not be interested in that?”

What do you want to do when you graduate?

Through my experience as a mechanical engineer intern at II-VI Marlow Industries, I have discovered that I want to become an environmental engineer and do my part in helping create a cleaner, more efficient world. In my internship, I deal with creating the procedural documentation or experiments for devices that benefit human wants. I realized that I would much rather spend my time and attention focusing on something that benefited more than human desires. In elementary school, we watched videos explaining the little things each of us could do in order to become greener at home. Unlike most people, I listened. I believe that if each person attempted to do their best in regard to the environment, our world would look a lot different. Now, my best can be much greater than the little things we learned in that elementary classroom. I know the power that engineering has to make a difference in the lives of individuals. With the time I have on this earth, I want to look back and know that I did everything I could to make the lives of others a little better. To me, engineering is the tool to help me reach this goal. Studying to become an environmental engineer will help me gain the ability to help the world in a greater way. I am currently a sophomore studying mechanical engineering for my undergraduate degree at BYU. I plan to attend graduate school for a Masters in environmental engineering. From there, I hope to pursue a career in improving the collection of energy from renewable resources such as wind turbines or solar cells.

What does it mean to receive a Motorola Solutions Foundation Scholarship?

I am currently studying at BYU to become a mechanical engineer. In order to become the best mechanical engineer I possibly can in a span of four years, I need experience outside of the traditional classroom. I was able to participate in a summer research program for undergraduates studying materials in energy and sustainability at the University of Houston. I have taken this knowledge I gained in research and have recently joined a research group on campus. However, these groups usually do not leave enough time for an outside job nor do they pay well, if anything at all. Each year I must worry about how I will pay for my schooling. With the help of this scholarship, instead of finding a well-paying job that only takes time away from crucial studying that any engineering student would say is precious, I would be able to do work that furthers my learning and career goals. To receive the Motorola Solutions Foundation Scholarship means that I will be able to earn the higher education I desire, without the worry of financial shortcomings. I would like to personally thank Motorola and SWE for this.

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