The mechanical engineering student credits her community for helping her navigate to a dream job at Apple.

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Nicole Proudfoot discovered in high school that she really liked using technology to help people.

Proudfoot is from Costa Rica, and she and a friend had been thinking about the prosthetic devices available in the country for children missing portions of their arms. They were clunky, with limited function — often just a pinching mechanism to grasp objects.

The pair wondered, could they use 3D printing to create an affordable and more dynamic alternative for the kids. Around that time, they found out about an entrepreneurship competition for high schools, and they set out to develop designs.

“My school taught us about designing and engineering and had just bought a 3D printer. We started working with kids that had upper limb amputations and started producing designs,” Proudfoot said. “I think that’s what definitely made me want to go into biomedical engineering and explore the robotic side, because it tied in with prosthetics.”

A high school counselor pointed her to Georgia Tech, where another student from her school had thrived. And Proudfoot used her 3D-printed prostheses, which won the entrepreneurship competition, as the basis for her application essay.

There was just one problem: When Proudfoot got to Tech, she realized biomolecules and physiology were far less interesting to her than biomedical robotics. Suddenly, she felt lost — biomedical engineering had been her passion for as long as she could remember. Then she talked to a trusted mentor, Valentina De La Fe in the College’s Center for Engineering Education and Diversity (CEED).

Nicole Proudfoot and a high school classmate with a winner's check
a 3D printed prosthetic hand

Proudfoot’s interest in biomedical robotics began in high school with 3D-printed prostheses and an entrepreneurship competition.

“I started having this existential crisis with Valentina — I think I must have been in my first or second semester — and she helped me navigate through,” Proudfoot said. “She helped me explore switching to mechanical engineering and showed me how I could get classes that complemented the areas of BME that I liked. So that was what I did.”

This fall, Proudfoot will complete her mechanical engineering studies, still with a passion for using technology to help people. She’s headed to California for a job at Apple, a company she thinks aligns quite well with that passion and one she’d dreamed of working for one day.

Proudfoot credited her community and a variety of opportunities at Tech for leading her to that dream job.

CEED became one of the places she found connection and belonging. Another was the Georgia Tech chapter of the Society for Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE).

Nicole Proudfoot and other CEED students at a conference booth

Proudfoot found connection with organizations like CEED and SHPE.

“Getting involved with the Georgia Tech community was really important for me, especially not growing up here. So, since the beginning, I was very involved with Georgia Tech SHPE,” Proudfoot said, “and I found it be my home away from home.”

She eventually took on an executive leadership role in SHPE and became a regular at the organization’s national convention. That’s where she found three internships — including two at medtech company Boston Scientific — that helped her continue to refine what she finds most fulfilling: working closely with a team and shepherding a product from idea to prototype to production and manufacturing.

At Apple, she’ll continue that trajectory of working with a team that’s close to the company’s products. She’ll join a unit that validates the quality and performance of the company’s proprietary silicon chips that power all of its devices.

She said the job feels almost destined. The team she’s joining wasn’t looking for a fresh-from-college new hire, but they needed a mechanical engineer. “And I talked to the right person at the right time,” Proudfoot said.

Maybe that could be said about her journey through Georgia Tech, too. The right opportunities and the right people presented themselves at the just the right time — her mentors in CEED when she was struggling with her major, SHPE when she was looking for a creative outlet and leadership opportunities, her internships when she needed to refine the kind of work she wanted to be doing every day. So even though her path may have felt winding, it brought her to the goal she’d always been chasing.

“Obviously I’m happy about the academic things I’ve accomplished. I’m happy about graduating soon. I’m very excited about the job offer I have lined up, and I can’t wait to start. But beyond all that, I think I’ve grown so much, and that’s my proudest accomplishment,” Proudfoot said.

“When I first got here, I was very excited but also very unsure — hence all the different paths and changes. Sometimes I attributed that to me being overly ambitious, but I think to an extent I also was unsure of who I was as a person. There’s a lot yet still to discover, but I think I’m more sure of my capabilities, that I’m a resilient person, and that even when things get complicated, I will be able to accomplish them.”

Im happy about the academic things Ive accomplished. Im happy about graduating soon. Im very excited about the job offer I have lined up, and I cant wait to start. But beyond all that, I think Ive grown so much, and that’s my proudest accomplishment.


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Nicole Proudfoot stands by the Georgia Tech historical marker
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Center for Engineering Education and Diversity (CEED)

CEED collaborates with Georgia Tech offices and student organizations, alumni, national organizations, corporations, the K-12 community, and other universities to create and support a diversified engineering workforce.


Georgia Tech’s Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (GT-SHPE) is the third largest SHPE chapter in the country. The undergraduate organization hosts annual events, helps members with career opportunities, and participates in local philanthropic initiatives.

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