MOUNTLAKE TERRACE — Elizabeth Jurgensen, 17, has a sweatshirt that spells out “Th-I-N-K” with symbols from the periodic table of elements. After discovering her niche in the Edmonds School District’s STEM Magnet Program, based at Mountlake Terrace High School, Jurgensen has been doing more than thinking about a future in science, technology, engineering or math.
Question: You are part of the STEM Student Leadership Team, a student-led group that does outreach for the magnet program. What do you do for that?
Answer: Right now we hold a middle school summer camp. We had 120 middle-schoolers — it was a little crazy. … We do a lot of outreach to middle schools. We rented out the Edmonds Theater for “Star Wars” the Saturday after it came out.
Q: You’re also in Robotics Club, which fields a large robot for FIRST competitions and a smaller robot for VEX competitions. What’s your team name?
A: We’re “Chill Out.” We have a giant penguin.
Q: You’re the treasurer for both groups, tracking orders, seeking sponsors, managing funds. How much money do you have to keep tabs on?
A: In STEM Student Leadership we have about $10,000 to work with. The camp is our main fundraiser. Our robotics team is around $20,000 to $30,000. This year we’re hoping to raise more. We really want to qualify for worlds, which is in Houston.
Q: How did you get involved in robotics?
A: My freshman year I wasn’t really involved. I was in DECA, and I thought I was going that direction — business. (Then she switched to STEM and joined robotics.) I realized it was really fun.
Q: Why the switch to STEM?
A: I was really interested in a challenge. I was always doing well in school and thought, “I want to push myself more.” … I like the sense of accomplishment where you finish a project and fix something — or eventually fix something.
Q: What’s on your class list this year?
A: Orchestra (she’s played cello since fifth grade); AP biology; STEM English 12, which is the capstone project class; personal finance this semester and health next semester; AP calculus; AP American government. (She’s also fulfilling a physical education requirement through an online program and planning to take Spanish through a local community college.)
A: Last year I took four AP classes, but I didn’t have room in my schedule this year.
Q: What are you doing for your capstone project?
A: A friend and I are hoping to build our own solar panel and make it as efficient as possible.
Q: I’m guessing you don’t have time for other activities…
A: I’ve been a Girl Scout since first grade. I’m working on my Gold Award. I’m working on a safety program. I’m starting with our shop downstairs, but it’s a three-step program you can apply anywhere.
Q: Did you grow up in Mountlake Terrace?
A: Yes. I went to Mountlake Terrace Elementary. I was a Little Hawk there. I’m a big Hawk now.
Q: Do you like your city?
A: Yeah. I like that it’s pretty small and that we’re close to (larger cities). I like going to Edmonds and Seattle.
Q: Do you have a favorite movie or book?
A: My favorite movie would have to be “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” because it inspires me to want to explore. My favorite book is “The Count of Monte Cristo” (because it keeps you guessing).
Q: You have a younger brother, Ben, who’s a sophomore at Mountlake Terrace High. Do you pick on him?
A: We get along really well. I’d feel bad if I gave him a hard time. (He’s on the VEX robotics team.) Usually I’m the lead of the team. “You can’t talk back to me just because I’m your sister.” All the kids think it’s hilarious.
Q: What’s an invention you think our world is missing?
A: (Thinks) I think maybe just a better umbrella. When I’m walking home, it doesn’t cover my backpack. I can’t figure out a way to make one, so someone else will have to. I’d be excited for it.
Q: So you walk to school?
A: Usually, yeah. If I have after-school activities, my mom will pick me up. I don’t drive. I haven’t had time to get to driver’s ed.
Q: What is it like to be a senior?
A: It’s really exciting. I think I’ll be really sad to leave, but I’m also really excited because there are so many opportunities out there. … I feel more prepared (being in STEM) than when I was in middle school and scared. I feel more confident.
Q: So what’s next? You’ve applied to MIT, among others, and have an interview to do there.
A: I’m hoping to go into nuclear engineering for my major. … I’m really interested in clean, renewable energy. That’s a big thing for me. … It can be safe if you take the right precautions.
Q: You don’t really think small. What do you see in the future, further down the road?
A: I’m really hoping that I’ll have a job (laughs). I want to come back to live in the Pacific Northwest. I’m really hoping the U.S. starts relying on more renewable energy. … By not relying so heavily on fossil fuels, we could solve a lot of issues.
Q: What advice would you give a freshman?
A: Definitely focus on your classes, and especially when you get into sophomore and junior year. You’ll regret not focusing on your science class. Also get involved — even though everyone says that. … At least you tried it out. Because you might regret not joining from the beginning. And if you have one bad experience, don’t let that change how you feel about it.
Q: Any hidden talents?
A: I really like to bake. … I make a lot of cupcakes.
Melissa Slager: 425-339-3432; firstname.lastname@example.org.