Beyond building better cars, this year’s leaders of Terps Racing—the A. James Clark School of Engineering’s award-winning student program dedicated to designing, building, testing, and racing a formula-style racecar, an electric formula-style racecar, and a baja-style offroad vehicle in collegiate competitions each year—are making strides to build a stronger community of inclusivity and diversity that is welcoming and supportive of its women engineers.
Jessica Rosenthal, Formula Team Captain
At the helm of this year’s Formula Team is mechanical engineering senior and Maryland native Jessica Rosenthal. After years of disassembling things in her parents’ basement, Rosenthal loved the hands-on opportunities and complex problems Terps Racing offered and the passion of her teammates.
As Formula Team Captain, one of her goals is to develop professional strategies for the team to increase diversity. To Rosenthal, diversity is not just about getting more women on the team; it’s about making a better vehicle. “I want to have a good car, and everybody else on the team wants a good car. At the end of the day, having more women on the team, having a more diverse team, will help output a better car.
“It’s also important for people to feel like they belong,” she adds. “I want the space to feel inclusive, so when someone walks in, that little thought in the back of their head that says, ‘I don't know if I belong here,’ or ‘I don't know if I fit in here,’ doesn't come up because they see people that look like them on the team.”
Abby Meyer, Baja Team Captain
Mechanical engineering junior and Baja Team Captain Abby Meyer is on a mission to increase the number of women joining Terps Racing. In coordination with UMD’s Women in Engineering Program, Meyers is developing more tailored hands-on engagement opportunities for female students to see what the club is all about.
She also envisions the team becoming more interdisciplinary. “In many ways we're not just an engineering team. We’re a business. So we want to bring in people from not just engineering, not just STEM, but from any major to build our business.”
Meyers cites Terps Racing as one of the most beneficial experiences she’s had at Maryland. She credits the group with helping her develop leadership skills, but also hands-on skills like machining and fabrication—making her not just a valuable asset to future employers, but also arming her with skills few women entering the workforce possess.
Kristina Buttion, Formula Testing Sub-Team Lead
Kristina Buttion has always been curious about what makes things tick. When she arrived at Maryland, she wanted to join a group where she could work on projects with other engineers who shared her passion and curiosity. Terps Racing afforded her that opportunity. “I would ask a million questions,” says Buttion. “I never felt uncomfortable. I never felt that they didn't want to answer my questions. Everyone was very open to teaching me.”
Through that insatiable curiosity, it was a natural evolution for Buttion to become the Formula Testing Sub-Team Lead by her second year. “I really liked the integration aspects of all of the components of the car, not just one piece. When something breaks, testing goes in, puts the pieces together, and figures out how to fix it.”
Ashley Lakey, Baja Steering Sub-Team Lead
Senior Ashley Lakey is a third-generation Maryland Terp and second-generation engineer who grew up fixing things with her dad, so ending up in Terps Racing seemed like an inevitability. As the Baja Steering Sub-Team Lead, Lakey enjoys the comradery of the group and recruiting new team members, bolstering their interests and getting them excited about the project.
“It’s pretty awesome, because some of the people on my team [this year] were freshman, and it’s their first time trying to design something. It’s so much fun to help them through that [process].” Lakey credits her time on the team with giving her real-world “street smarts” to go with the “book smarts” she gained in her classes, and will use her experiences to explore a range of possible engineering paths.