Pre-Engineering student not easily categorized

Curiosity and a love for learning have guided Lettie Curtis to a variety of interests and pursuits. She is not easily categorized.

Welding and metallurgy are interesting to her, but then, so is music. She’s organized and likes to plan things, but then she wants to get her hands dirty and build something.

And whatever she does, she takes the time and puts in the effort to do it well.

Lettie learned and expressed herself musically on the violin for years, until the world of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics she learned about as a child called her name again.

The Tecumseh High School senior really caught the STEM bug in eighth grade during a visit to Gordon Cooper Technology Center.

“It was the coolest thing! We toured the Pre-Engineering Academy and I got to build bridges on a computer,” Lettie said.

When she got home, she asked her dad, Joe Curtis, a GCTC welding instructor, all kinds of questions about the Academy and the technology center.

Her interest in pre-engineering came naturally. She wasn’t allowed to watch much television growing up, so Lettie spent time watching and helping her dad with welding, machining and lots of other kinds of projects instead. By the time she was 5, Lettie could identify various types of metal at a glance. She kept busy building things, but then, just as often she was off somewhere with her nose in a book.

So, it was a natural fit for her when Lettie entered the GCTC Pre-Engineering Academy as a sophomore.

She learned all about simple machines including how to build and test them. There were projects based on chemistry, physics, computer software, electronics, engineering, robotics and math.

“I like wiring digital electronics circuits because it’s like a big puzzle to solve,” she said.

Lettie got to build and design parts on Inventor modeling software for her FIRST Robotics team. She also helped her team with outreach programs to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics education.

She also liked planning and designing a 900 square foot home floor plan on Revit software. Her home design assignment, based on Habitat for Humanity specifications, is a comfy two bedroom, one bath with an open living space.

Being a non-traditional student in the GCTC Pre-Engineering Academy isn’t awkward for Lettie because close to a third of her classmates are female.

Three female Pre-Engineering Academy instructors and a female STEM data specialist at GCTC encourage Lettie to excel in a field traditionally dominated by men.

“My female teachers encourage me because they know what it is like to be a non-traditional student breaking through gender barriers,” she said.

Lettie enjoyed several field trips her instructors organized sponsored by the Society of Women Engineers plus the state Women in Science Conference.

“I thought those were some of the coolest field trips I have ever been on. I got to hear meteorologist Emily Sutton talk about her experiences as a female in STEM,” she said.

All of this is helping Lettie build a rather impressive resume before she even finishes high school. Her resume includes achievements through the student organization, SkillsUSA, and her participation in a Pre-Engineering Academy FIRST Robotics Team 2341. Lettie is a three-year member of a GCTC Quiz Bowl team at the state level for SkillsUSA. Last year she was a member of the state champion Quiz Bowl team that advanced to national competition at Kansas City.

At her home school, Lettie is varsity captain for the academic team and a member of the National Honor Society and Beta Club.

After high school graduation, Lettie plans to study mechanical engineering at Oklahoma Christian University in Edmond in preparation for a career in that discipline.

“The mechanical engineering field is broad with a variety of job opportunities,” she said. “And I like variety.”