Competitive climber chose electrical engineering route

Electrical engineering graduate student Megan Emmons can move mountains.

When Emmons was 7, she became the youngest person to climb all 53 fourteeners in Colorado. By 14, she was sponsored by Marmot, a premier outdoor clothing and sporting goods company, and held a position on the U.S. Youth Climbing Team.

Megan Emmons
“Christmas 92. Megan gets a climbing rope.”

But what does rock climbing have to do with electrical engineering? Everything, according to Emmons, a high-achieving Ph.D. student and graduate teaching assistant in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Colorado State University. Whether on the rock or in the classroom, she faces challenges head-on with passion and a well-planned strategy.

“Climbing allowed me to develop self-discipline to work hard and methodically,” said Emmons. “Much like engineering, I am always problem-solving. It’s all about the iterative process of setting short- and long-term goals and measuring progress toward those goals.”

No fear, open mind

While climbing is often perceived as a risky sport, Emmons does not see it that way.

“I don’t think of myself as having guts per se,” she said. “I am always working to control potential risks, just as you would in an engineering project.”

Even with a solid risk management plan in place, unexpected events can happen. When an injury derailed Emmons’ climbing career, she approached the setback as an opportunity to refocus.

“My dad always taught me to keep my options open,” said Emmons. “I knew I needed to pursue other interests. That’s when I started tinkering with robots.”

Emmons immersed herself in an award-winning high school robotics project that earned her a full-ride scholarship to Colorado School of Mines, and she has been on an electrical engineering path ever since. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Mines, she earned an M.S.E.E. from Utah State University.

Do what you love

Today, Emmons is working toward her Ph.D. under the guidance of Professor Tony Maciejewski, ECE department head. In addition to helping teach a robotics course that she co-designed, Emmons is active in the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society, currently serving as the chair of its student activities committee.

When Emmons is not teaching or studying, she is probably climbing, skiing, hiking, or working remotely from a coffee shop in Estes Park, Colorado.

“I live by the mantra: work hard, do what you love, and keep your options open,” said Emmons. “Electrical engineering opens up so many possibilities, and I love the people and culture at CSU. It is a perfect fit for me.”