Natalie: Designing a Helipad that Saves Lives | Girl Scouts

Natalie: This Gold Award Girl Scout Uses Ecodesign to Save Lives on the Slopes


I grew up skiing and have been doing ski patrol work since I was 15. I love adventures and being outside—as did my Girl Scout troop—and I looked up to the strong women on the ski patrol. They inspired me to become a first responder myself.

Ski patrol focuses on quickly and efficiently moving patients who have injured themselves on the slopes, and I learned that during a rescue, time can really impact patient outcomes. Some spinal injuries, for instance, may lead to paralysis if they’re not treated in time. And in the worst-case scenario, patients can die if they can’t get help quickly.

So for my Gold Award, I wanted to improve how patients get to the Air EMS. I designed and built a new helicopter pad on the ski hill where I worked in New Mexico so that snowmobiles with toboggans could take patients directly to the designated transportation site. I also improved the lighting around the helipad, designing lights that are easier to see and are able to operate in difficult conditions. My design runs on solar energy and every light can work independently—an improvement over the previous wiring, where one broken light affected the entire system, making it difficult or impossible for aircraft to land if a storm or accident knocked out one or more lights.

When I was in seventh grade, I joined a FIRST Lego League Robotics team with Girl Scouts, which inspired me to pursue my love of engineering and design and led me to take related classes in high school. And although most of my classmates have been male, my older Girl Scout sisters on the robotics team really helped me see that I wasn’t alone in pursuing a STEM career path. With this in mind, through my project I wanted more girls to see the power of engineering in action so that if they’re interested, they can do something like what I did. And because mentoring young girls is so important to me, I also developed and led an all-girl workshop to encourage more girls to go into engineering-related fields.

I’m currently at Texas A&M University studying biomedical engineering. My Gold Award helped me not only get into a competitive program at a competitive school, but also earn several local scholarships so that I’m able to focus on my education instead of how to pay for it. It gave me a jumpstart on my career as an engineer. (I’m currently looking into patenting my helipad design!) At 18, I never thought I'd be able to talk about something like this! It has encouraged me to keep on innovating.

Thing is, that’s what Girl Scouts does. It allows you to take your aspirations off the ground and make them a reality. Through Girl Scouts, I was able to learn about robotics in an environment where I felt safe and validated. It also gave me the opportunity to travel and compete nationally. It helped fund my dreams. And my Gold Award brought me closer to my ski and Girl Scout communities and has helped me give back to those who helped me along the way. I wish every girl could be a Girl Scout so they could find a community that wants them to succeed!