When Hayley Katz and her team went to the world championship semifinals of the FIRST Robotics competition during her senior year in high school, she realized how much she enjoyed the program. She enjoyed the program so much that she continued volunteering during college and after she started working at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Armaments Center as a materials engineer.
“My favorite part of FIRST Robotics is when students come back years later and share a real-life problem they encountered and solved using skills they learned during the FIRST program. That’s where the magic happens,” Katz said.
For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, or FIRST Robotics, is a team-based program for children 4-18 years old that encourages interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics through hands-on learning. The program also fosters self-confidence, communication and leadership.
“FIRST Robotics is about getting science and technology into the real world and showing students that it’s not just for stereotypical engineers…anyone can get involved. You can have a role as big or as small as you want. There are so many ways you can help the robotics team…there is a role for everyone,” Katz said.
DEVCOM AC offered Katz a full-time position after she worked as a Pathways intern during the summer between her junior and senior year of college. The Pathways Internship Program provides college students the opportunity to explore federal careers through paid work.
“During my senior year in college, I reached out to the DEVCOM AC team I worked with during my internship. The team answered my questions and provided information, which helped me complete my undergraduate research project, Then, they offered me a full-time position, and I was hired within a year,” Katz said.
Currently, Katz is the printed electronics and futures integration team lead at the Printed Electronics Energetics Materials and Sensors Center at DEVCOM AC. The PEEMS Center is one of the Department of Defense’s largest sites for advanced manufacturing of electronics.
Katz moved from volunteering with a local team to being the head coach of the team. She now mentors other local Picatinny Arsenal STEM teams.
“I feel like I really grew up here, moving from a junior intern engineer into a position with a leadership role,” Katz said.
She stresses the importance of giving opportunities to women engineers to help balance a predominantly male career field.
“There’s a need for the next generation of scientists and engineers, and this should include opportunities for young women. This will help them see other women in this career field and, ultimately, see themselves in those same roles. We need people to get involved and become advocates for these young women,” Katz said.
The U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, known as DEVCOM, is home to thousands of Army scientists, engineers, technicians and analysts working around the globe to leverage cutting-edge technologies and empower the American warfighter with the data and abilities to see, sense, make decisions and act faster than our adversaries – today and in the future.
As part of Army Futures Command, DEVCOM takes calculated risks to find new technological solutions each day. Our experts drive innovation, improve existing technologies and engineer solutions to technical challenges. Our work goes beyond theory to simulation and prototyping. We take potential science and technology solutions from the lab “into the dirt” for experimentation alongside Army Soldiers. DEVCOM prides itself as a global ecosystem of innovators, from world-class universities and large defense contractors, to small, minority-owned businesses and international allies and partners.