Megan Tian of Lake Oswego, OR is the winner of the 2023 NFPA Robotics Challenge Scholarship. The scholarship program received strong applications from students across the country who used pneumatics in robotics competitions.
The NFPA member judges who interviewed Megan were impressed by her understanding of pneumatics, leadership skills, and involvement in her community. Megan will be using the scholarship to pursue a Computer Science degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, MA. She is also an AP Scholar with Distinction, Coolidge Scholarship Senator, National Merit Scholarship Finalist, and a US Presidential Scholars Semifinalist.
Megan joined her FIRST Robotics Team, Lake Monsters 2635 as an 8th grader. She initially found interest in the electrical aspects of the robot, but due to COVID constraints a couple years later she began exploring software. During Megan’s junior year she was named the Software Lead and went on to serve as the Team Captain her senior year. As a leader, Megan said that she is “glad to have contributed in some way to helping people find what they really like to do and pursue that with all their hearts”. Through FIRST, she learned that the best leaders don’t do everything and instead create space for their teammates to grow as leaders themselves. In Megan’s five-year tenure on the team, Lake Monsters 2635 built eight robots that utilized pneumatic technology.
On top of robotics, Megan is also involved in Speech & Debate, Orchestra, and Community Organizing by serving on Lake Oswego’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Board, Oregon Health Authority’s Youth Data Council, and the American Rescue Plan Act Grant Allocation Committee.
Through her participation in the FIRST Robotics Competition, she learned about the value of fluid power and pneumatics as an intuitive, compact, and flexible choice for meeting design goals of varying complexity. Going forward, Megan said that she is excited to continue learning about applications of fluid power. Overall, Megan sees her involvement in robotics as a transformative part of high school where she will look back in 10-20 years and notice how robotics changed her life. She said, “winning this scholarship is an honor and makes me feel good that I’ve put so much effort into robotics, that other folks are acknowledging my effort, and recognizing that the FRC program is important.”
She sees MIT as a place to nurture her curiosity and passion, as well as be challenged by the curriculum. At MIT she plans to continue being involved in robotics in a medical devices lab where she can work on prosthetics or other assistive technologies. In the future, Megan sees robotics playing a huge role in the biotechnology industry, from automating and scaling basic biological research experiments to improving patient quality of life. Ultimately, she wants to make high-quality, cutting-edge healthcare accessible and available to everyone.
The NFPA Education and Technology Foundation awards $30,000 ($7,500 per year for four years) to one graduating high school senior through the Robotics Challenge Scholarship program. 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 are required from each applicant. The money awarded is used to study fluid power relevant degree programs at any accredited college or university in the United States. The NFPA Foundation’s goal is to build awareness of fluid power benefits and careers among high school students.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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