Alex Thwaits: Women’s Day Senior Spotlight


Emma Walrath, Editor in Chief

The STEM field is predominately male, with an overwhelming 87% majority. Alex Thwaits, Sahuaro senior, is a part of the 13% of females in STEM-related programs swimming against the current.

When Alex Thwaits joined Mr. Davis’ engineering class sophomore year, she was the only girl. Alex has been here at Sahuaro all four years and she has made her mark on the STEM side of our school and beyond through her involvement in robotics, computer science STEM panels, and more.

Her engineering class sparked her love for the subject because it was her first hands-on class. They created solar ovens and cooked pizza rolls in them while she was taking notes in other classes. They also worked on robotics and coding, both of which she would later be massively involved with. Her love of engineering is so great that it’s what she wants to study in college, more specifically, mechanical and engineering management.

This field interests her because “I grew up around my dad, always building and fixing things. I enjoy being able to fix physical problems, there is a clear path.”

Alex joined the Robotics Club in Junior year, 2017-2018, her favorite parts include collaboration and creativeness; for example, “We completely rebuilt the robot in 4 days,” which is not an easy feat. She is a self-described “team mom.” Alex went to the state tournament to help the other teams, even though hers wasn’t going, in case something went wrong. She is the technical support for the teams and helps with their code and programming.
She has also been in Sahuaros’ computer science class for the past two years, where she learns about coding everything from robots to web pages.

Sahuaro’s Robotics Teams

This led Thwaits to found Sahuaro’s Girls Who Code Club which focuses on getting other girls involved in computer science because there are so few women involved in the field and that number is decreasing. She says, “The statistics never change unless you don’t get involved.” The club was created last year and boasts over 10 members today.

Following the theme of women involvement in STEM, she is also a monthly participant in a STEM panel at the University of Arizona. Once a month, alumni, professionals, master program students and others in the field come together to talk about various topics; for example, “When do you feel empowered to ask for help?” and “When have you faced discrimination in your profession?” The conversations are focused around women, but men are welcome. Alex takes part when the panel breaks into Socratic seminar, and she helps facilitate conversation.

Alex’s group from NSLC

Alex’s connection to STEM doesn’t stop over the summer as she attended the summer program National Student Leadership Conference focused around engineering. Alex describes it as, “The best nine days of my high school experience.” She enjoyed it so much because of the people she met and the daily engineering challenge. These challenges ranged from a remote controlled car to a trash collecting boat. The camp was reportedly very stressful, but equally fun.

Alex and her former teacher

Alex’s advice to other girls who want to follow a similar path as her is to do what you want to do, regardless if you are the only girl in the world. Girls at Sahuaro should be able to invest their time into the STEM field just as much as the boys, and Alex has made this route easier for those to come. The amount of activities and commitments Alex upholds is admirable and she should be appreciated as a very important Cougar. She has really made a mark on her school.