Katie Beth Higgins: Education for the next generation

By Stephi Smith, Executive Editor

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From building robots, to promoting STEM, to competitive Irish dancing, Katie Beth Higgins is dynamic and varied in her passions and talents.

At the end of the year, Higgins will receive more than just her high school diploma; an Honors Scholar Diploma, a Technical Scholars Diploma, a Project Lead the Way (PLTW) certificate and a NASA Aerospace Scholars diploma.

Higgins has been part of PLTW, a pre-cursor to STEM all four years of her high school career. The program offers both curriculum and professional development in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

For grades K-12, PLTW is a non-profit organization that helps students link math and science to their own world. It helps with problem solving and math and science skills. Higgins said she would love for more kids to join.

“PLTW is fun, it’s nice to learn and be with groups of people who are interested in the same things you are,” she says.

Higgins is the only girl in her class, and said she’s made a lot of male friends.

“We’ve all been together for four years now and we all get along really well,” she said.

PLTW students recently had the opportunity to design a product in a group and present it to engineers who are working in the industry.

Since 2010, at 14-years-old, Higgins has been a volunteer for promoting STEM to schools and organizations in Western Washington.

Higgins was also in the NASA High School Aerospace Scholars Class of 2013 from July 7-12, 2013. There, she planned a simulated mission to Mars and was the leaders of the Ethics Committee.

She is also a member of the National Association of Rocketry (NAR) and Museum of Flight and the ambassador of the Washington Aerospace Scholar.

In addition, Robotics has been a very important part of Higgins’ high school career.

She’s been a member since freshman year.

“I just heard that MTHS had a robotics and that sounded really interesting,” Higgins said.

She added, “I just like building things and problem solving. And [the hardest part] is probably the teamwork and communication.”

Higgins has found the Robotics club very fun and tells anyone thinking about joining to, “Keep in mind that this isn’t the real world-no matter what the mentors tell you. This is high school and it doesn’t matter. It’s just for fun and it’s a game and you should do your best to enjoy it.”

“It’s a fun hobby, but it’s not what I want to do [for a career]” Higgins said.

The robotics team is currently working on the launchers used at assemblies spirit assemblies to give away free t-shirts.

Higgins was also in the MTHS talent show Irish dancing which she does competitively through the Comerford School of Irish Dance.

“It’s fun, it’s just a way to relieve stress,” Higgins said.

Higgins’ teachers usually choreograph her dances. “I’ll [choreograph it] only when I mess up, then I’ll just make it up on the spot,” she said.

She’s been dancing for nearly 16 years, since she was about 2-years-old.

“My parents bought the River Dance VHS and I just sat in front of the TV and I was like ‘I want to do that.’ I really like it. It’s fun. Unless I fall. Then it’s not so fun,” she said.

Higgins is at Championship Level for Irish dancing and it normally takes her two to three weeks to learn a new dance.

“If the dance is repetitive it’s hard [to learn], but if it’s not, it can be pretty easy,” Higgins said.

In 2008, Higgins was a Girl Scout Camp Volunteer Counselor at Trail and Sail Day Camp in Everett. She supervises children there, mostly young Girl Scouts from pre-school to sixth grade. She helps them with leadership, teamwork and fun activities such as crafts, songs or games.

She’s been a Girl Scout since the Daisy level (5-years-old) and is now an ambassador.

Recently, Higgins had to present her senior project, a payload recovery device.

She designed a parachute steering device that would safely allow a rocket to descend from 1,000 feet.

She’s linked it to her studies in both PLTW and robotics. It’s taken a long time and she hasn’t been attending either the robotics meetings or her dance lessons because of it.

Higgins was the Pre-Engineering Student of the Year for the Edmonds School District and MTHS for 2013.

She was also Student of the Month for the Alderwood Terrace Rotary Club in the same year and Washington Aerospace Scholars  program Phase One and Two in 2012-13.

The American Association of University Women named her an Outstanding High School Student in Technology in 2013.

Higgins has been the recipient of three scholarships: the Hazel Miller Scholarship, the American Association of University Women 2014 Scholarship and the Team American Rocketry Challenge Scholarship.

Her dedication to advancement in technology and engineering accomplishments represents what it means to be a student of future.