Louisa Wood was just 16 years old and a junior in high school when she won the Rockwell Automation You Make It challenge in 2019. The contest inspired young innovators to submit big ideas to help solve real problems.
After a series of heavy rains had flooded her family’s basement, Louisa set to work developing a better system than the traditional sump pump.
Louisa took the top prize for creating a system that applies predictive maintenance concepts, machine learning algorithms and local weather data to enable the program to adapt to each installation and predict when a pump will overflow or when parts are likely to fail.
Louisa has long been passionate about STEM fields and computer science. And although she grew up relatively close to one of the company’s largest locations in Milwaukee, Louisa knew little about Rockwell before the challenge. After an exceptional experience in the contest, Louisa realized that she could continue her learning with other mentors and applied for an internship during her senior year of high school.
While Louisa knew of her general areas of interest for her first year at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), after the internship she was more focused and better prepared for her major in computer science.
“Because of the internship experience I had a deeper and broader understanding of how the classes I chose could be applied in my future job,” she said. “Instead of theory I now understand application.”
Bright minds, big ideas
For Louisa, one of the greatest benefits of the internship at Rockwell Automation was her exposure to some of the world’s brightest minds and most helpful people in the fields of engineering, research and computer science. “These highly skilled pros are working with the most advanced emulation software, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) tools, and I got to use those tools in different environments.”
Rockwell Automation, she said, was the only place she’d experience industrial researchers and how academics can be applied within a company.
“I’m interested in advanced technology and the industrial research arm of Rockwell is so incredibly interesting,” Louisa said. “This experience absolutely shaped how I approached my first year at MIT and my career going forward.”
Taken advantage of opportunity
Louisa’s advice to aspiring STEM professionals is simple: “You are never too young to seek experience.” While Louisa’s parents have worked in large companies, hearing about their jobs was much different than experiencing professional life directly.
“An environment like Rockwell Automation allows you to learn more about what you want to do – and what you don’t want to do,” Louisa said.
During her internship, Louisa said she met many professional role models in the Advanced Technology department. One of those colleagues became her first female professional role model. “We have not yet achieved gender balance in engineering, and it was so inspiring to interact with a woman who is so well respected in a technical field,” Louisa said. “When I met her I realized what I could achieve as a woman in STEM.”
Louisa’s experience with the Advanced Technology group focused on innovation – and reminded Louisa that wherever she works, whatever she does, everyone can be an innovator, imagining a different future and having the passion and perseverance to make it happen.
“What made this experience so important is how the team operated to create meaningful work for interns,” Louisa said. “The work matters, your experience matters. I watched the problem-solving process in real time, and I understand so much more now.”
MIT was always Louisa’s dream school because of its collaborative, supportive culture.
“Collaboration is important because you work at a higher level when you are talking through ideas and concepts with other people who are energized and engaged. This is when I am most creative,” Louisa said. “This is what I had at Rockwell, this is what I want in college, and this is what I hope for in a career.”