As technology grows, you might consider a hybrid or electric for your next car purchase.
People like Ana Torres will ensure your new ride is safe, reliable and efficient.
Torres is a mechanical engineering major who wants to improve green technology for cars and aircraft.
Torres says her major offers the perfect mix of science knowledge and technical skill.
“Many people think it’s a very hands-on thing. They’ll say, ‘Oh, you only work on cars? Like a mechanic, right?’” Torres said. “It’s a lot more than that. We’re the ones who design and do all the background stuff.”
Torres is a unicorn in her field and wants that to change.
She hopes to influence others like her to try the profession.
“I’ve been trying to connect with more groups of girls and show them the other side of STEM – the engineering side,” Torres said. “It’s such a male-dominated field that they don’t care to know what engineering is. I’ve been trying to spread the word around for younger girls.”
Designing a better battery
Engineering students at MSU often have internships with businesses in the Springfield area.
Inspired by her summer internship with a local battery company, Torres has taken up research.
Torres is a research scholar for the Missouri Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (MoLSAMP). The program supports minority students in STEM.
Torres’s research group, led by Dr. Tayo Obafemi-Ajayi and Dr. Daniel Moreno-German, explores battery design (lithium-ion) for electric vehicles.
The best part: It does not feel like work.
“This is why I joined mechanical engineering. I get to learn something I know I will love to do when I graduate.”
“I reached out to Dr. T and she asked me, ‘What are you interested in?’” Torres said. “We started talking and found common ground. She got me involved with the part of her research project that I would be the best fit for.
“Instead of just doing research for the sake of research, like a job, I get to do something I’m interested in.”
The group is just getting started.
As they do more testing and research, Torres hopes they can develop a better battery design for electric vehicles.
“Some of the (batteries) now are not as effective, like in the wintertime or just with certain charging and discharging aspects,” Torres said. “Right now, I’m wanting to test and (explore) the different chemistries and model different batteries.
“Potentially, I’d like to get a model of a new battery that my team and I come up with.”
From South America to MSU
Torres’s passion for cars and green technology goes back to her childhood.
Torres grew up in South America.
The Colombia native spent more time at her grandfather’s mechanic shop than mom’s beauty salon.
“I started being in the shop a lot and asking, ‘How does this work? What does this do?’” Torres said. “When I discovered I was interested in how cars and airplanes worked, I figured I’d go into either mechanical engineering or aerospace engineering.
“I think my family just expected me to follow in my mom’s footsteps. While I did work with her growing up, I knew I wanted to do something else.”
Torres and her family moved to Springfield when she was in middle school.
She chose the Missouri State and Missouri S&T cooperative engineering program for its lower cost and location.
Torres, who covers most of her tuition costs with scholarships, takes Missouri S&T engineering courses on MSU’s Springfield campus. She will graduate with a mechanical engineering degree from S&T in Rolla, Mo.
“I love how all of my classes tie together,” she said. “It’s getting more practical. I’m doing stuff I’ll be doing in the real world.”