MechSE women collect national awards at SWE conference
The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) annually recognizes individuals in collegiate and professional environments who have broken boundaries in their careers and have proven to be leaders in their communities and in the future of STEM. This year, at SWE’s WE18 conference in Minneapolis, not only did the Illinois chapter receive awards, but MechSE Professor Elizabeth Hsiao-Wecksler, alumna Ann Peedikayil, and undergraduate student Abby Pakeltis were recognized for their impact.
Hsiao-Wecksler, a Willet Faculty Scholar and the Associate Head for Undergraduate Programs, received the Distinguished Engineering Educator Award for her multiple contributions to improving education at Illinois. Among her many contributions, she created the Innovation Studio where students have access to 3D printers, laser cutters, and a woodshop for rapid prototyping; and she has led the effort to improve the MechSE design sequence. Her research in the Human Dynamics and Controls Laboratory (HDCL) aims to improve function, mobility, and quality of life of people with disabilities.
Pakeltis, a senior in mechanical engineering and president of the SWE Illinois collegiate chapter, has previously participated in the Outreach Committee, won awards in the Team Tech Committee, and served as external vice president before taking on her current role. Including Pakeltis, only nine students in the nation received the Outstanding Collegiate Member Award.
“For me SWE just ended up being a great community after I got started freshman year,” Pakeltis said. “It was just somewhere I always wanted to go back to.”
MechSE alumna Ann Peedikayil (BSEM ’03, BS Aero ’06, MBA ’17) received the Outstanding SWE Counselor Award for her work with the Illinois chapter. Peedikayil is a data scientist with Caterpillar Inc., but has held various positions within the company, ranging from the engineering rotation program to the Engineering Talent Competency group.
Peedikayil joined SWE in 1999 and held the position of Community Service Director for two years during her undergraduate career. Since then, she acted as the Champaign/Urbana/Decatur/Danville Area contact and currently serves as the counselor of the Illinois SWE chapter and the industry advisor for the Team Tech Project.
“The reception of the award means a lot to me because it reflects how I’m able to impact SWE Illinois,” Peedikayil said. “It feels good to know that I was able to help SWE Illinois, especially the officer board, throughout the last seven years.”
In addition to the individual awards, the section earned Best Practice in Professional Development, Best Practice in SWE Resource Promotion, and Collegiate Gold Section. The SWE Team Tech Committee included MechSE’s Olivia Barron, Madeleine Gandawidjaja, and Isha Tyle. They came in third place nationally for their project, “Data Acquisition Module for Off-Road Machines,” which they completed with Caterpillar.
WE18 is the world’s largest gathering of women engineers across all major engineering disciplines. SWE provides women engineers a unique place and voice within the engineering industry. The organization aims to empower women to achieve their full potential as engineers and leaders and demonstrate the value of diversity and inclusion in engineering.