Betty Aita Rukh-Kamaa is currently a senior studying electrical engineering at the University of Maryland, College Park, but her engineering career actually started in the third grade. That’s when she started participating in Science Fair, under the tutelage of her father, a data scientist. “Every year, my dad and I would really go gung ho for Science Fair,” she said.
A broad smile appeared on her face when she described one of her first experiments: extracting iron from breakfast cereal. “We [Betty Aita and her dad] got a lot of cereal, then crushed it really fine, then spread it out, and passed magnets over it to attract the iron particles,” she said. “It was really amazing to see the iron form on the magnets. I was like, ‘OK. We’re eating that!’”
Later in her career, she participated in Final Frontiers, a physics competition held every November in Montgomery County, Maryland. In this program, one of the challenges she faced was to design a vehicle that would travel down an inclined plane as slowly as possible. “The key was having very big wheels,” she recalled. Learning about science wasn’t something she just did at school, though. “As a family, we would visit museums and go see eclipses and stuff like that,” she said.
In high school, she took a lot of math and physics classes, and that’s when she started getting serious about pursuing an engineering career. “I realized that engineering is a combination of physics and math,” she said. At that point, she wasn’t really sure which field of engineering she wanted to pursue, but in the end, electrical engineering won out.
After high school, she enrolled at the University of Maryland (UMD), where she is part of the honors program. One of the reasons that she chose UMD is that its size gave her an opportunity to meet many different types of people, while at the same time, connect with others on a more personal level. This led her to join the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) in her freshman year. In May 2022, she applied for, and was awarded an ARDC-funded SWE scholarship.
At UMD, Betty Aita has taken a wide range of interesting courses, but she really enjoyed the Signals and Systems class. She found it directly applicable to her work as an intern for Northrop Grumman Communication Systems & Mission Payloads in Redondo Beach, California. There, she served as the technical lead of a team of interns tasked with creating a remote-controlled vehicle that was capable of fighting fires in a simulated wildfire.
This semester, she’s working with a professor on a simulation project. Her group, called the Bright Beam Collective, is working on improving particle accelerator predictive models, in particular how the location and strength of the magnets used to form the particle beam affect the beam shape. Her responsibility is to test the models.
After graduation, she plans to pursue a career in the communications field, hopefully in space communications. “I really enjoyed my internship at Northrop Grumman, and there are so many ways to apply electrical engineering to that field,” she noted.
Outside of class, Betty Aita plays intramural soccer, and recently participated in an improv class with her brother. “It was a little bit scary,” she said, “but a lot of fun.” Another thing she does to keep in shape is box. So, watch out for her right jab!
We’re happy that we could help Betty Aita and other women pursue their dreams of becoming an engineer via the SWE Scholarship program. These scholarships support those who identify as a woman and pursue an ABET-accredited bachelor or graduate student program in preparation for careers in engineering, engineering technology, and fields related to engineering globally. In 2022, SWE disbursed 330 scholarships valued at more than $1,700,000. 30 of those scholarships were funded by an ARDC grant of $200,000.