After four years at the University of Michigan, senior Rhianna Lucas is ready to enter her next chapter.
Lucas started her freshman year in the College of Engineering. While she loved learning about science and engineering, she felt a greater calling to teaching and working with students. She decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree in education with a certification in earth and space science.
As Lucas prepares to graduate at the end of April, she also is wrapping up her time student teaching in a project-based learning school. She said she plans to carry the learning techniques from the school into her future teaching.
“I think the best way to learn science is through doing science. So that’s in any lesson that I teach — to not just have PowerPoints and notes, but to actually be doing science to learn,” she said.
Lucas said one of the most rewarding experiences throughout her undergraduate years has been her time working with Woven Wind, a BLUElab project team. A partnership with engineering and education students, the group builds wind turbines for schools to help teach kids about renewable energy.
Last year, the team partnered with a small school of Indigenous students in remote Alaska. Throughout the year, engineering students worked to design and build wind turbines to help power the school, and education students conducted lessons via Zoom to teach students about science, technology, engineering and math with a focus on wind turbines.
At the end of the school year, Lucas traveled to the Alaskan town with Woven Wind to work directly with the students and spend time with them outside the classroom. Lucas grew up in Bancroft, Michigan — a town of less than 500 people — and said she wanted to show the students how science and education can transform lives.
“As somebody who’s also from a really small town, getting to reach out and see that connection of, ‘Look, you could go all these places in the world and do all of these things,’ was really great,” Lucas said.
After learning to design wind turbines from scratch, the students formed groups for a contest to create wind turbines from cardboard and motor circuits, and attempt to generate the highest power measured by a voltmeter.
“The group that won actually inspired us a little bit with their wind turbine design, because it was really amazing, and I was super happy with how much the students had learned,” Lucas said.
Upon graduating, Lucas plans to move to Austin, Texas, to teach middle school science. She said she could also see herself teaching high school geology or astronomy in the future.