Class of 2016: Cape Elizabeth student defies labels

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CAPE ELIZABETH — Haley Fawcett doesn’t let stereotypes hold her back.

Whether it’s the notion that engineering is for boys or that scientists can’t also excel in creative arts, the Cape Elizabeth High School senior defies social expectations.

“I don’t think of myself as the only girl on the robotics team,” Fawcett said. “That’s not my mindset.”

Fawcett, 18, will be graduating with the Class of 2016 on June 12 at Fort Williams Park. In the fall she will attend Boston University to study biomedical engineering. Fawcett said she either wants to develop medical treatments in a biology lab or engineer medical equipment and develop new technology.

The future engineer joined the high school’s robotics team as a sophomore and has been the club’s only female member since then. The gender difference doesn’t bother her, Fawcett said, because she’s there to enjoy her passion.

“It’s given me a big interest in engineering, which I hadn’t known much about, but have now realized is something I’m passionate about,” she said.

Fawcett said she enjoys the club, which has 15 members, meets every day, and competes every few months, because “it’s the closest I can get to real engineering.” Robotics allows her to more deeply understand what she learns in class, Fawcett said.

“It’s so much different than anything you’d normally do in school,” she said. “You can learn the principles, but actually getting to do it has been interesting to me. I think the hands-on experience has helped me understand concepts.”

The robotics team has consistently done well at competitions; the most recent win was in February at the Maine State VEX Robotics Championship. Fawcett says her team has been so successful because the members are creative thinkers.

“My team sort of does our best to come up with something no one else has thought of, and I’m proud of the ideas we’ve come up with,” she said.

Fawcett keeps her brainstorming skills sharp by being a member of the school’s improvisation club. She is also a singer, and recently performed in the production of “The Little Mermaid.”

Acting is a stark contrast to engineering, but Fawcett said her two interests complement each other.

“Thinking on your feet is very important in robotics and you need to come up with solutions to problems fast and come up with something on the spot,” she said.

Fawcett said she decided to participate in two very different clubs because she likes doing things she couldn’t otherwise do if she didn’t seek out experiences.

“I like to do things that I wouldn’t otherwise have exposure to,” she said.

She said she hopes other girls interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) adopt her mindset and explore new interests.

“It’s really important to have that opportunity because I don’t think a lot of girls know they have that option,” she said.

For girls interested in engineering who are intimidated by the male-dominated field, Fawcett said to just go for it.

“Do it anyway,” she said. “If there’s a chance you might be interested, take that chance. It’s always better to take the chance and find out you’re not interested than to not take the chance and always wonder.”

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

Cape Elizabeth High School senior Haley Fawcett, the only girl on the school’s robotics team, will be attending Boston University this fall to study biomedical engineering.

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I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.