Her first time in a solar car, Stephanie Wilson, a electrical engineering senior at U of Minnesota anxiously climbed into the tiny driver’s seat and closed the cover. Despite having the car malfunction and it’s accelerator stick on the highest speed, her team was able to solve the issue after a couple long minutes and Wilson couldn’t wait to get back behind the wheel. She is now the Solar Vehicle Project’s first female team leader in at least a decade!
It’s her responsibility to oversee the construction of the award-winning team’s car and keep them on track for the Australia World Solar Challenge race this fall. “At times, it can be challenging work,” Wilson said about working on the solar car. “But I didn’t want to do something that I instantly knew how to do and then be bored the rest of my life.” Inspired by her father and her love of math, science and organization, Wilson began considering engineering as a career option in seventh grade.
The University of Minnesota’s Science and Engineering program has a female body that takes up about 25%. “It was kind of strange at first going to a lecture hall filled with people and maybe two to five girls in the room,” Wilson said, “but now that I’m like four years in, it’s become the normal.” She went on to say that she had never had a female professor in her four years.
Despite this gender difference and occasional bias in the classroom, Wilson and, team mechanical leader, Carlstorm said there haven’t been any issues with gender bias on the solar vehicle team. Since being appointed leader of the team of about 40 people, Wilson has gained confidence and respect among team members, including boyfriendMitchell Rogalsky.
“She’s not afraid of a challenge,” Rogalsky said. “You can’t deter her from what she wants to do.”