Meet a Robotics Challenge Scholarship Awardee – Isabel Williams

The NFPA Education and Technology Foundation has awarded 3 scholarships to students who applied to the Robotics Challenge Scholarship. A minimum GPA of 3.0 out of 4.0, 1,000-word essay, letter of recommendation, and use of pneumatics in their FIRST, VEX or NRL competition robot were required from each applicant. The NFPA Foundation’s goal is to build awareness of fluid power benefits and careers among high school students.

One of the winners, Isabel Williams, is attending Michigan Technological University. We asked Isabel a few questions about winning the scholarship.

What does winning this scholarship mean to you?

This scholarship is a product of the hard work I’ve put into my education and extracurriculars including robotics. It reinforces to me that dedication will lead to success. Additionally, it helps clear my path to college, where I can continue learning and growing as a person, culminating in a successful and meaningful career.

When did you first get involved in robotics? How did your experiences and roles in robotics evolve over time?

My initial experience with FIRST was on a FIRST Tech Challenge team in middle school. This encouraged me to join a FIRST Robotics team in high school; however, a lack of knowledge and confidence presented difficulties early on. I pushed through these setbacks and worked harder to grow skills and confidence. Because of this, I gradually took on bigger roles and built leadership skills, which allowed me to become captain of the team my senior year. That experience, where I was able to pass along what I had learned to younger students, was one of my most valuable and cherished in high school.

Where are you going to college? What made you choose this school? What activities are you hoping to participate in?

I plan on attending Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Michigan. Many of my family members have graduated from the school and attest to its academic rigor and many unique opportunities that help students find careers. For example, I’m excited to participate in their Enterprise program, which involves multidisciplinary, student-led teams that take on projects occasionally directly from companies. I’m especially interested in their robotics team and the satellite-building team, which has even sent satellites into Earth’s atmosphere in the past.

What are your career aspirations? What type of fluid power job do you hope to get after you graduate?

I hope to take advantage of my opportunities to get a head start through building connections and internships while in college, so I’m fully prepared to find a job upon graduating. I want to use my degree in mechanical engineering to be able to take on a variety of jobs and projects throughout my career. For example, working in robotics, where fluid power is a major technological prospect, is an exciting career path that I would hope to find.

One way NFPA members can get involved with scholarship programs is to volunteer as a judge to serve on the application review committee or mentor a robotics team as they work towards incorporating pneumatics in their designs. This year 16 judges from 13 NFPA member companies reviewed 47 student applications to the Robotics Challenge Scholarship program. If you are interested in learning more, please contact Haley Nemeth at

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