CSE junior advocates for underrepresented in STEM
Grace Hansen leads nonprofit that supports diversity in science and engineering
Grace Hansen is only a junior at the University of Minnesota, but the industrial and systems engineering (ISyE) major has more than 10 years of robotics experience and supporting underrepresented groups in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.
“We need people from different backgrounds working together on our hardest engineering projects,” said Hansen, who serves as director of programs for the University of Minnesota Robotics student group, “because the solutions need to serve the entire population, not just the majority.”
Hansen, a recipient of the ISyE Scholarship and CSE Alumni Scholarship, became interested in robotics in third grade when she joined a FIRST Lego League team. In fourth grade, she co-founded The Green Girls, an all-girls robotics team that eventually competed in the FIRST Tech Challenge. Over time, members of that group established the nonprofit Green Girls STEM Foundation to fundraise for competition fees and support other local robotics teams.
As foundation president, Hansen has led the nonprofit to a rebrand and expansion of its mission. Also on the leadership team, serving as treasurer, is Claire Myers, a product design major in the U of M College of Design.
“We created outreach programs to teach students with disabilities, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and foster children about STEM using affordable activities made from household items,” she said.
Hansen received a 2021 University of Minnesota President’s Student Leadership and Service Award for her community contributions.
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