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Maddie Monahan likes building things. She is a trendsetter, who is not afraid to deviate from the norm.

Those characteristics don’t only describe Monahan as an engineering student, but also as a member of the Lehigh field hockey program.

Monahan’s interest in engineering began in high school and has blossomed since, eventually leading to her interning at Sikorsky Innovations in Connecticut this past summer.

“In high school, I had a really good relationship with one of my physics teachers and we started the engineering club for our school (Academy of our Lady of Mercy), which was an all-girls school,” said Monahan. “I participated in a competition with Sikorsky while in high school, saw how underrepresented women were and thought I could make a difference.”

In a few short years, Monahan has already made a difference. She’s only a sophomore in college, but has made her mark in the engineering field.

While in high school, Monahan entered a team into a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) competition at Sikorsky, becoming the first all girl’s team to ever enter (and win).

“If you think of the  paper map used for road trips merely a decade ago that required significant manual operation, and now of GPS navigation programs like Waze which require little to none of that while additionally giving you real-time delays, displays and ETAs, that’s what our team did in an airplane,” said Monahan. “We worked to design and implement a fly-by-wire system into a Vought F4U Corsair (a fighter aircraft from World War II) that usually would have a mechanical control system over the course of the year through significant research, testing, programming and formal written reports.”

Monahan must have made a strong impression with Sikorsky officials.

“This past spring, some people reached out and asked if I wanted to work at the company during the summer,” she said.

Monahan jumped at the opportunity. Based out of Stratford, Connecticut, Sikorsky’s parent company is Lockheed Martin.

This summer, Monahan’s team created “On Demand Acoustic Measurement.”

“Our team created ODAM for a company that works to efficiently tackle the most pressing problems in vertical flight through new technologies, practices and products,” said Monahan. “I used the programming surfaces of MATLAB and LabVIEW to create this system, which was used in real flight tests for a proposed high-speed scout and attack compound helicopter. In real time, as the helicopter was over the array of microphones in the field, my program calculated and displayed graphs such as the frequency spectrum and overall sound pressure levels.

“Usually when an acoustic test is done, this data needs to be post processed which takes weeks at a time, yet this program did this all instantly and you could watch the data in real time, which was really awesome,” Monahan continued. “When I went to the flight test, I met really impressive people in charge of massive projects for Lockheed Martin-Sikorsky, working side-by-side and in meetings with them.”

Still so young in her collegiate career, Monahan owns impressive skills in the engineering field. She was able to utilize skills she already, had while learning new ones as well.

“LabVIEW is a different programming platform than I was used to,” said Monahan. “I’m teaching MATLAB in a class this fall as a teaching assistant, so I was obviously very familiar with the program. LabVIEW allows you to measure data in real time while MATLAB is for post processing to make sure the data is correct.”

Monahan has gotten a lot of things correct in her young academic and athletic career. More important than any statistics or grade, Monahan understands the big picture. That big-picture understanding was on display from day one at Lehigh, going out of her way to form a relationship with new head coach Caitlin Dallmeyer, who hadn’t recruited her.

“Maddie is easily one of the athletes that I see the most in my office,” said Dallmeyer. “She fully understands that having a relationship with our staff is a two-way street. She loves to break down game play, analyze results, and discuss her role in every scenario. She seeks feedback consistently, and then actively works to utilize it in a constructive way.”

“I knew a lot of girls in my class were recruited by Coach, so I needed to find a way to have that same relationship with her, or a stronger one,” said Monahan. “I stopped in Coach’s office all the time and got to know her more on a personal level. That wasn’t something I necessarily had to do.”

Monahan has often done things she hasn’t had to, going above and beyond and doing things that aren’t always easy. Instead of just getting by and being content with average, Monahan has taken advantage of the entire breadth of her Lehigh student-athlete experience.

“I wanted a school where I could study engineering because a lot of other field hockey programs don’t allow you to,” said Monahan. “I recently switched into CSB program (Computer Science and Business), and Coach Dallmeyer is fully supportive. At the end of the spring, I was offered to teach a class. It conflicted with a little bit of practice. Coach said, if this is something that’s important to you, then it’s important to me. It’s going to make you a better person and I’m not going to hold you back.”

Lehigh Athletics does the exact opposite of holding you back. It allows you to flourish, teaching skills along the journey that are transferable to the real world.

“I am in Flight 45 (Lehigh Athletics’ leadership programming), as a Student-Athlete Mentor and member of Emerging Leaders, and I used skills learned to help me in a real business situation this summer,” said Monahan. “I have learned persistence and patience. Many things went wrong in our programs (at Sikorsky), and it took the whole summer to work through. At the same time, we’re in a rebuilding phase for our (Lehigh field hockey) program.

“It’s important to see where things need to go and take the small steps along the way, knowing there’s a bigger prize at the end.”

To reach that bigger prize, Lehigh field hockey needs trendsetters like Monahan, people who are unafraid of failure and know how to react when they do face failure. Monahan displayed those characteristics well before her time at Lehigh.

“When I started doing computer science a little bit in high school, it was a complex program with a bunch of different ways you could solve it,” said Monahan. “That’s what I liked most, and I believe that’s why I enjoyed this summer so much; you’re always thinking outside the box and you don’t always have to go by the book to get the answer. I don’t necessarily go by the book because I’m creative in that kind of way, which I believe also translates into my play on the field.”

On the field, Monahan’s problem solving skills (enhanced at Sikorsky this summer), and overall approach, is helping the Mountain Hawks build from the ground up.

“This summer, our manager gave us this piece of paper with what our final program was supposed to look like and I wondered how we were ever supposed to do this,” said Monahan. “But we broke it down into a bunch of different smaller pieces and then we set goals with what we wanted to get done each week, which is where we ultimately found success.

“That’s really what we’re doing here with Lehigh field hockey. We know the type of program we want to be, but we have to break it down into smaller steps.”

Monahan and the Mountain Hawks are focused on gradually going step by step with the larger goal in mind. They know they are trendsetters, like Monahan is a female in the engineering field.

“Maddie is courageous in that she is comfortable putting herself in uncomfortable situations and trying her hand at new things,” said Dallmeyer. “Upon her arrival to Lehigh, we quickly identified her as having great leadership potential and we have been prompting her to continue her growth in that area. She is fearless when it comes to personal growth and will try her hand at anything that will help her development or the team’s development. She displays the characteristics of a true team player, which is what we seek for all our team members.”

“Having the opportunity to intern at a company that is a significant leader in its respective industry is incredible in itself,” said Monahan. “But what set Sikorsky Innovations apart from other companies was that interns were entrusted with significant roles in the office. I will forever be grateful for the privilege to travel with the group to test our system – and watch its success. It was an experience I will never forget.”