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Brittney English Applies Lessons from Childhood to Engineering Outreach

Aug 11, 2017
Brittney English poses with two campers and their SeaPerch underwater robot at the Campus Recreation Center pool.

As a toddler Brittney English would duck walk under her father’s car and watch in fascination as he changed the oil. The first time she held a power drill was at the age of three under the tutelage of her grandfather as he built a set of bookshelves. A few years later, she began squirreling away nuts and bolts, saving them in a jar like precious treasure.

The electrical and computer engineering doctoral student describes herself as an “outgoing, audacious, and curious” kid who was never dissuaded by challenges or gender stereotypes.

“I had a catch phrase when I was little. It was: ‘Excuse me, I’m a professional,’” English said.

Her father, a fighter pilot for the U.S. Air Force, and her mother, a stay-at-home mom, embraced the inquisitive nature of their daughter. “They didn’t really have a choice. I wasn’t the type to take ‘no’ for an answer,” English said.

English’s curiosity blossomed into a love for math and science and eventually led her to study engineering. She earned her bachelor’s degree in computer engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering in 2011. From 2011 to 2013, she worked as an engineer for the Department of the Navy and simultaneously received her master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering from the University of Florida. She is currently working toward her Ph.D. degree here at Georgia Tech with a focus on robotics.

English realizes her upbringing was pretty exceptional. Many girls aren’t encouraged to tinker with tools. And when it comes to preconceived notions about what kinds of subjects should appeal to girls versus boys, even the boldest of girls can get bogged down by stereotypes.

“It’s hard to be a woman in tech, but we change it by prevailing and encouraging others to prevail,” English said.

One way she does just that is her outreach work with women here at Georgia Tech...

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