The world’s ancient temples represent engineering marvels that have endured for centuries built on the progressive systems used to erect them.
Today’s modern temples continue to be predicated on employing advanced engineering systems to anticipate society’s complex needs. But they also depend on emerging leaders like Leanna Temple, who’s not your Pharaoh’s engineer.
Temple, a Carson City native and 2015 graduate of Sierra Lutheran High School, is a rare commodity among those in the pre-professional tract to become engineers.
A September 2018 article published by the Society of Women Engineers reported only 13 percent of engineers are women and 32 percent of females transfer out of STEM degree programs while in college.
Now on the doorstep of earning her bachelor’s in mechanical engineering at Seattle Pacific University in June, Temple is poised to become part of a select group in her field.
“I feel proud being a part of such select company as a female in engineering,” Temple said recently during a break in her studies. “If anything, these statistics push me to work harder and succeed in order to break down these systematic biases and pave the way for future minority STEM students.”
And while Temple represents an underrepresented population in the engineering field, it will be her talent that exalts her.
A member of the SPU Honor Society and a perennial member of the Dean’s List, Temple is working as a planning engineer intern with the City of Bellevue, Wash., where she has gained invaluable experience with project management, public outreach and utility design of such systems as pump stations, reservoirs and pipelines.
“With the City of Bellevue, I am able to work directly alongside professional engineers who manage real projects and affect and influence large populations of people,” Temple said recently between classes. “I am learning just how much goes into every single project. No stone can go unturned when you’re responsible for providing hundreds of people with clean and reliable water.”
Prior to her civic work, Temple was hired as a mechanical design intern during her junior year to be part of a team that designed and constructed a virtual reality exhibit for the Pacific Science Center, an interactive science museum and learning center in Seattle.
“The exhibit that we created for the PSC is essentially a large curved movie screen,” Temple explained. “Using several overhead projectors and directional audio, the user is able to have a more immersive experience, as it looks and sounds like they’re in the middle of the setting rather than just watching.
“As a mechanical engineer, I was responsible for the design and construction of the physical structure, which was made from aluminum pipes, bungees, and a custom made screen. It is currently being used at the Pacific Science Center. They can use a specialized software to project anything onto the screen, so it can be adapted to fit into many of their different installations.”
Temple’s focused and collaborative experiences in local government and in the non-profit sector over the past two years has been furthered by her dynamic interdisciplinary work on campus with other aspiring engineering students (electrical, mechanical, and computer engineering students) on intensive Junior and Senior Projects.
“(You) go through the process of designing, fabricating, and testing your project,” the magna cum laude candidate explained. “For Junior Design, my team created an automated plant watering system that delivered specific amounts of water to certain plants on a specified, user-defined schedule.
“I am currently in the middle of my Senior Design project, PillBot. The concept is a medication delivery robot for use in various medical facilities. It is still a bit too early in the design process to be receiving commitments from facilities and organizations, but we have been in communication with nurses from the University of Washington Medical Center and Swedish Hospital. We will be presenting the project at the Erickson Undergraduate Research Conference on May 10.”
Complementing Temple’s passion for scientific inquiry is her considerable talent as a performing artist who lends her vocal and instrumental gifts to Community Dinners, a Seattle-based ministry that provides nutritional and spiritual feeding for area residents.
“Working with Community Dinners has been a really unique and incredible experience,” Temple explained. “Community Dinners is a dinner church, where a meal is served for anyone and everyone who comes through the door.
“I was first involved with Community Dinners as a volunteer — serving food — and a few months later, I joined their team as a musician — playing my guitar and singing while everyone shares dinner together. I have met some unforgettable people, and the time I spend at Community Dinners is almost always my favorite part of the week.”
A sterling academic and pre-professional resume, accented by prodigious interpersonal and artistic talent, has paved the way for this talented member of SPU’s University Scholars (honors) program to engineer new innovation in her field, and new horizons for aspirant women in this arena.
“Ideally, I would find a position with an aerospace organization such as Boeing, Blue Origin, or a more small scale aerospace/aeronautics company,” Temple shared. “I hope to integrate my leadership skills with my technical engineering education by finding a position involving systems engineering.”
The legacy of the ancient temples are commemorated in advanced thought and leadership of their day. The enduring legacy of modern engineering lies in the hands of a select few, like Temple, who have something to teach history.
“I am very aware of the underrepresentation of women in engineering and various other STEM fields,” Temple went on to share. “I have not seen a significant number of female engineering majors drop out from the SPU engineering program; however, it does not surprise me that this statistic is illustrative of larger universities.
“I feel really fortunate and grateful to be a role model in this aspect, and I am excited to see confident, young female engineers solving the problems of tomorrow.”
Brian Underwood is the director of School Development at Sierra Lutheran High School.