Senior Architect by Day, Science Fair Judge by Night

For ARMATURE’s Cat Fletcher, a devotion to STEM is in her genes

Two nights ago, Cat Fletcher volunteered as a judge at the South Lakes High School Science Fair. This is something she’s been doing for the past eight years, and it’s a family affair: her mother and brother also judge the event. Given ARMATURE’s passion for technology and innovation, we thought we’d sit down with her to see what the future of science looks like. Here’s what she had to say.

How long have you been judging and how did you come to find it?

My mom used to be a chemistry teacher at South Lakes High School. She was also the head of the science department there, and for many years she ran the science fair. When I moved back to the area in 2009, she recruited me to come judge, and I’ve been doing it ever since. My mom and brother also judge.

How big is the science fair, and what are the categories?

I’d say there were about 150 projects, covering a range of science and tech disciplines: chemistry, biology, mechanical engineering, computer science, and life sciences. The students whose projects I judged are ninth and tenth graders.

What was your category?

My category this year was chemistry. Since my mom was a chemistry teacher, I picked up a lot of that when I was younger. Each year, they let you pick a few categories that you’d be willing to judge. I chose computer science, robotics, and chemistry, and I got my mom’s favorite subject!

What were the highlights?

My favorite part overall is how excited the students get about the scientific process, and how they make connections between science and everyday life. Some students applied chemistry to how we dye clothing, or how baking works. They really get to know the scientific process: they introduce a problem, formulate a hypothesis, show their methodology, present results and graphs, and end with a conclusion about whether their hypothesis was correct. So it’s all very applicable to any kind of scientifically-minded career area you’d want to move into.

I met with the students and they talked about their projects, and they were both excited and nervous to explain what they did and what they learned. There were a lot of girls who were really into it, which is encouraging.

That’s reflected here at ARMATURE. Our tech team is 50 percent female.

That’s amazing to me, because I’ve never worked anywhere where it was even close to that ratio. That was one of the things that really compelled me to work here—when I came in and saw that there were so many women on the development team. It’s a nice balance.

And it must be inspiring to see the next generation of girls rocking the science fair.

It is, and I would like to do anything I can to encourage them. [Editor’s note: Cat is true to her word. She, along with another senior member of ARMATURE’s tech team, has volunteered to judge the DC STEM Fair in March.]

What are the prizes?

The winners of this high school science fair get to go on to the county or regional science fair, and then it goes up from there.

Did you have any favorite projects outside of chemistry?

There was one around the science of encryption that looked really interesting, especially for a high school project. There was one around the acid content in stomachs and how that breaks down the food we eat, and how the inability of your stomach to break down foods effectively could contribute to obesity.

You’re part of the hiring team here at ARMATURE. I wonder, what qualities do you look for when you’re judging student science fair projects, and are any of those the same qualities you look for in a job applicant?

Certainly communication. If someone can do well presenting their ideas, and demonstrate a depth of understanding, then they have my attention. It’s that depth of understanding that reveals the passion they have for their topic, and it indicates a deep interest in learning.

I look for the same qualities in job applicants. One of the things I love about ARMATURE is that we’re all a little obsessed with discovering and learning new technologies. That’s how you stay head of the curve and keep the spirit of innovation alive, and every person we hire needs to share that love of learning.

It’s not just about doing your job, but really loving your job. That passion for science is what I saw in some of these students, and it made me really optimistic about the future.

Sounds like a great way to spend a Wednesday night.

For sure!