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3M mentors the next generation of women in STEM

October 10, 2019

It’s been said that confidence is the key to success. For 18-year-old Sarah Cunniff, gaining confidence has changed the trajectory of her life.

Sarah Cunniff and Rachel Clark pose for a picture representing the Robettes

Sarah Cunniff is the graduating captain of Minnesota’s first all-girls robotics team, the Robettes.

The group of high schoolers recently participated in 3M’s annual Robots Invade the Plaza event, which drew 22 local robotics teams to 3M headquarters to show off their creations.

The teams compete throughout the year at events organized by FIRST​®, a 3M STEM partner. Hundreds of 3M employees filled the outdoor quad area, along with friends and family, to show their support for the students and their projects.

One of the employees in attendance was Rachel Clark. Rachel is a 3M engineer and a mentor to the Robettes team. She is also a former member of the Robettes, having competed for two seasons during her junior and senior years of high school. “I consider it a true honor to mentor the team that gave my life direction,” says Rachel.

In the case of Sarah, Rachel noticed a transformation through the years that was life changing.

“To see her gain confidence was so rewarding.”

Rachel Clark, 3M engineer and a mentor to the Robettes team
Robettes team poses on the plaza

Thanks to Rachel’s mentorship and the Robettes, Sarah eventually built up the confidence to become team captain and a highly respected member of Minnesota’s FIRST community. “The Robettes is so much more than just robots,” says Sarah. “My time on the team and the all-girls environment really shaped who I am today.”

In the fall, Sarah is headed to Rose-Hulman Institute for Technology, the nation’s top-ranked STEM university, to major in mechanical engineering with a minor in robotics.

With 13% of the current engineering jobs in the U.S. filled by women, Sarah’s story is significant. “3M is only going to be as strong as our future workforce, and with a diverse workforce and a diverse STEM ecosystem, we’re going to be a stronger company in the long run,” says Michael Stroik, 3Mgives director.

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