Michelle Pantoya has authored children's books in hopes of inspiring kids to the engineering profession.
The YWCA of Lubbock has named Texas Tech University professor Michelle Pantoya to its Women of Excellence program for 2015.
Pantoya, the J.W. Wright Regents Endowed Chair and Professor in Mechanical Engineering, will be presented the Women of Excellence in Science at a banquet on March 12 at the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center. She was nominated for the award by Al Sacco, Jr., the dean of the Whitacre College of Engineering.
The award is presented each year to honor women in the community who excel in their careers and inspire others through their achievements and work within the community.
Pantoya called it an opportunity to highlight the YWCA and its meaningful contributions within the community.
“What I want the community to walk away with is inspiration and empowerment,” Pantoya said. “There are people who serve the community on many different levels, and that is an important part of our lives. I'm honored to be a part of that.
“I want them to walk away feeling like this is a good thing. Guests will hear stories of inspiration and the difference people are making in the lives of others. There are positive things and positive people affecting the community in a positive way, which is inspiring.”
Pantoya has been at Texas Tech since 2000 after earning her bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees at the University of California-Davis.
Her research interests include energetic materials, combustion and experimental heat transfer. Her desire to serve in the community arose from her children and her joy for her profession.
But she noticed students would often declare engineering as a major, but without a clear path. She felt the need to help students before they reached college.
“When I first started my job it was about establishing research to get students to do something so they would learn how to research and go into society well-prepared for their profession,” Pantoya said. “Once you get all this momentum, there are other ways to make an impact.
“So I started to see this greater need to touch the lives of children so they can start thinking about their options, where engineering was never one of them.”
Her hope in mentoring children is to give them a better understanding of what engineering is and how it benefits society.
“If we can clear up these misconceptions at young ages in the hope that young kids become inspired by the meaningfulness of engineering and choose to study that as a discipline and change our world, to me, that is more gripping,” Pantoya said.
One of the ways she attempts to reach kids is through books. She has authored children's books, including “Engineering Elephants” and “Designing Dandelions” in hopes of teaching kids what engineers do, generating more interest in the profession.
Pantoya said the books have gone around the world.
“Who knows who might see the book, read it, become inspired and go on to change the world?” Pantoya said. “We need to let children know there are people who design our future and they could be a part of that, regardless of their gender or race. They can do anything they put their mind to.”
Seats for the banquet are $75 and tickets can be purchased through the YWCA of Lubbock.