Engineer Follows Heart, Finds Love for Teaching STEM
Three patents hang on the wall behind Linda Hallinan’s desk in the makerspace at Miami Valley School in Dayton, Ohio. Across the room is a shadowbox with a slide rule, Fortran punch cards, and other tools she used as a young engineer.
After a successful 20-year career as an engineer working in advanced product development where she designed aircraft wheels and the brake system for the first electric vehicle, Linda decided to follow her heart. She wanted to make things better for people and, as a teacher, that’s something she could experience every single day.
Her initial spark came years earlier when volunteering with SAE’s A World In Motion® (AWIM®) STEM education program while working at Delphi Automotive. She led teacher training sessions, served as a mentor, and actively recruited industry volunteers to help out in the classroom. She even went on to set the record for AWIM program participation.
Today, the engineer turned educator is helping students unlock their creativity while also giving back to the community. In her classroom, bins filled with wheels, popsicle sticks, and countless other recycled and upcycled parts line the walls for her students to use on their builds. To help guide them along the way and encourage their creative problem solving, she always tries to answer their questions with questions “Why do you think there are two of these pieces?”
When a local church wanted to create their own makerspace, Linda’s students took up a collection to gather all of their extra parts so they could stock the shelves with makerspace materials. They even volunteered their time to repaint a classroom and create murals to inspire students at the church to their own creativity.
This summer, Linda is also organizing a STEM summer camp for inner-city students in Dayton to give them a chance to use 3D printers and vinyl cutters, and to program robots. Through programs like AWIM and Linda’s creative, hands-on approach to teaching, all students have a chance to be successful. Even if they’ve struggled in other classes, they can still have an “Aha” moment with STEM.
When Linda started her career as an engineer, she was often the only female in the room. Now, through her dedication as a teacher, a number of her female students have gone on to study engineering at the University of Dayton. Through her encouragement and tireless dedication, they realized they could do it.
“When I started teaching, I wanted to get females excited about math and science. At times I was marginalized as a female. I felt high school was too late to make an impact so I landed in middle school where students are still very impressionable,” Hallinan reflected.
Based on Linda’s work with students and her positive impact in the Dayton community, it’s safe to say she’s not going to be the only one with patents hanging on her wall.
You Can Help!
Your donation helps fund hands-on STEM experiences that can boost student confidence and carryover into other classes and at home.