New Scholarships Push Women to Be Engineers

November 11, 2018

By Scott Shurtleff


GROTON -- Frustrated at the lack of female engineer applicants at his Chelmsford company, Custom MMIC, CEO Paul Blount decided to help a few get started down that road.

Three local girls were recently awarded scholarships for their academic work and scientific aspirations, thanks in part to Blount and his partnership with Greater Lowell Community Foundation.

The girls are recent graduates of local high schools, now beginning their education in various disciplines within the diverse industry of engineering. Sarah McKinley is a 2018 graduate of Westford Academy and current freshman at Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York. She joins other recipients -- Emma Fournier and Grace Remillard, both of Groton -- as winners of the first Women in Engineering scholarship fund.

Blount limited this first year’s competition to Groton and Westford residents but hopes to include Chelmsford in next year’s search. “Our company started in Groton before moving to Westford,” he explained. “Now we are in Chelmsford and we designed the program to follow our journey.”

Emma Fournier won the grand prize among the 11 applicants, a full scholarship.

“I really liked math and science as a kid,” said Fournier, now a freshman at Tulane University studying chemical engineering. “I had an aptitude for it and my teachers (at Groton- Dunstable Regional High School) really encouraged me toward that direction.”

She won the scholarship, worth as much as $80,000, based on her academics, involvement in school activities including sports and an essay that she wrote.

McKinley working toward a degree in mechanical engineering. “I started to get into building model rockets as a kid, then I got really interested in robotics. I also like set design, which isn’t exactly engineering. But it is about figuring ways to solve problems,” she said. “I think it’s great that he (Blount) is encouraging us to get involved in engineering but he is also helping to support our journey.”

“All of the applicants were impressive,” Blount said. “And their credentials were essentially equal so the essay became a significant part of the selection process. We were only planning on the one award but the others were also deserving.” Two others were awarded $10,000 each.

Fournier’s classmate at GDRHS, Remillard, began her studies last month as an electrical engineering major at University of Massachusetts Lowell.

Next year, Blount hopes to award three more scholarships to local women who have: already declared a college major that is related to engineering; been accepted into an accredited university; live in one of the three towns; have stellar academic records; and complete an essay that reflects not only why they are interested in engineering but also how their skills will help society.

He offered all the winners an opportunity to intern at his company over the summer.

“I have no expectations that they will necessarily come to work here once they graduate. It’s completely up to them. We want to get more young people into the field, nearly everyone is in their 50s. I want to protect the future of our industry,” said Blount.

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