When she was younger, Jennifer Schultz didn’t want to be an engineer.
Never. Too boring. Too dry. And you’d be with other engineers. Besides, her dad was an electrical engineer. She wanted to be different.
“There was no way I was going to be an engineer,” she says.
Yet here she is, a summer intern in the office of Nonspec, the company that offers low-cost prosthetic limb systems, born from UMass Lowell’s DifferenceMaker competition.
Schultz, who heads into her sophomore year at UMass Lowell in the fall, is a mechanical engineering major. During her internship, she is helping to build an inventory system.
She is, in her “spare” time, also taking a photography class and working for the UML Recreation Center’s Outdoor Adventure program as a kayaking instructor and staff member. A passionate outdoorswoman, she has bike trips and hiking trips planned.
As a freshman, Schultz delved into all the university offered. In the Francis College of Engineering Prototyping Competition, her group’s Handy Bandages, an airtight bandage to protect wounds from airborne bacteria and bloodstream infections, took first place and $1,000. She trekked to India during winter break with UMass Lowell’s B.V.B. Innovation and Entrepreneurship Program and continued researching the bandages project, interviewing medical personnel, physicians and EMTs to learn about their needs.
She also worked with another project that came out of the DifferenceMaker program, the volunteer organization eNable Lowell, a student-run group that designs, makes and delivers limbs at no cost for those who cannot afford them.
Schultz, who hails from Lowell, says she discovered her love of engineering during an Intro to Engineering class as a freshman at her high school, Innovation Academy Charter School in Tyngsboro. In that class, she made a camera. She worked on side projects at home. She had the tools and enjoyed using them. And her teacher told her parents, “Of all the people in this school, she’s the engineer.”
“That was a turning point,” she says. “Engineering was back on the radar.”
Schultz has a way of making the most of every situation. As a sophomore in high school, she tore her ACL playing soccer. The following year it was her PCL. There was surgery. She ended up interning for her physical therapist.
When she first toured UML, Nonspec’s leaders, Erin Keaney and Jon Perez de Alderete, gave a presentation that impressed her. She took the Biomedical Engineering class they co-taught. When she was assigned to write a profile for an English class, she interviewed them.
And here she is, working two days a week at their office on the third floor of the 110 Canal Innovation Hub.