Kathryn Undercuffler, 16, is heading into her senior year at Arlington High School. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Kathryn Undercuffler, 16, is heading into her senior year at Arlington High School. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Arlington student, future zoologist, enamored with elephants

ARLINGTON — Kathryn Undercuffler, 16, is heading into her senior year at Arlington High School. She’s part of a world-class robotics team and was a national youth delegate at the Washington Youth Summit on the Environment in Washington, D.C., in June.

Question: What classes did you take last year and what are you taking next year?

Answer: My class schedule this year was pretty normal. I have a lot of interest in the sciences, so I took chemistry, and next year I’m taking AP environmental science, which is a class I’ve been waiting for since freshman year. I found out about it and was like, ‘I have to take this.’ I take band. Those are the only ones that really stand out. The rest are normal classes to graduate.

Q: What extracurriculars are you involved in?

A: I’m part of the robotics team at the high school. We placed fourth in the world this year. We’re the Neobots. That was a big accomplishment for us. I’ve been on the team since my freshman year. I’m in band. I play the upright bass. I picked it because it was the quietest instrument in the band. It was quiet, but it was huge, so it kind of balanced itself out. I wasn’t forgotten, but I could mess up and no one would know. In pep band, I was assigned the cymbals because you can’t carry around a bass marching. You mess up and everyone knows. And I’m part of a local youth group called Youth Dynamics. We do a lot of outdoor stuff and community service. We did the pancake breakfast (on July 4). We help with the parades, we help out with other organizations’ fundraisers and we also do our own fundraisers.

Q: You were selected as a delegate for the Washington Youth Summit on the Environment. Tell me about that.

A: It was huge. We were in different groups, and I had one of the best groups ever. Everyone was so interested and passionate. It was interesting to meet everyone and see their perspectives and see how they’re affected by the environment in their state. We went to panels and we had experts who worked with apes at the National Zoo, and a person who worked with reptiles and amphibians. We could ask them any question we wanted … you got to hear from hands-on experience and how they view the environment and how they view their job.

Q: Did you have a favorite topic?

A: I went to a study on primates and the enclosures they’re in, and how they try to compensate for the space they would normally have in the wild verses how much they have in captivity. What they’d done is make what was almost a gigantic zipline so the apes could climb up and across and go into a different exhibit that was halfway across the park. I thought that was really clever.

Q: What type of science are you interested in?

A: Mostly animal science. I want to be a zoologist. I really want to go out into the field and look at the behavioral differences from an animal in the wild verses an animal in captivity. I’ve always been interested in that. I want to focus on elephants.

Q: Have you made plans for college?

A: I’m hoping to go to Colorado State in Fort Collins. My family is moving back to New Mexico after my sister and I graduate, so I want to be closer to them but not in the same state.

Q: How old is your sister?

A: We’re twins. She’s 16. Her name’s Zoë. She’s into the arts. My mom is an artist and my dad works in solar energy, so my sister and I kind of took after our parents.

Q: What are some of your favorite hobbies?

A: I love inflatable kayaking. We do week-long trips with Youth Dynamics … I also love hiking, and of course rafting.

Q: How are your grades?

A: Pretty good. I’m not the A-plus student, but I’m all A’s and B’s.

Q: What’s been your biggest challenge in high school?

A: Speaking out. I’m a huge introvert. I was really shy so I had to push myself to join a lot of groups. I had to learn how to say yes to stuff. Especially something as big as being in D.C. by myself (for the summit). That was huge. My parents flew out, but they basically dropped me off and said, ‘Have fun.’ I had no friends there. I’m terrible at meeting new people. But it ended up being really cool.

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; kbray@heraldnet.com.

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