Lilli McCauley – 2023 Southwest Region Rising Star
All about Lilli
What was a fun or inspiring learning experience you had before you started school?
One day when I was about 6, after a big rain storm, my little brother and I went out to my backyard and searched for all the worms we could find. We found the ones that were stranded on the road and we relocated them. I remember the pure, wholesome joy that came from relocating those worms and being in nature.
If you could teach a class on anything STEM-related, what would it be and why?
Silversmithing has brought me a big amount of joy, and I would love to teach other youth about forms of art that involve STEM. There’s so many technical skills that come with silversmithing, like what temperature your solder melts at, or what goes into your metals, but there’s also the emotional skills that come with this kind of art, like problem-solving or perseverance.
If you had unlimited money, time, and resources, what STEM-related project would you take on?
I would fight for women’s health and invent products that are empowering for women while also being environmentally conscious. After high school, I can see myself traveling to a place where women have less resources and inventing these products out of things that may normally go to landfills.
Inventing for good
Lilli discusses how joining her school’s Project Invent team helped her gain confidence and see the possibilities of STEM.
From Lilli’s Nomination Statement
“For the past two years Lilli has been the most active, passionate and conscientious member of my invention team. They have contributed countless hours after school and on weekends developing assistive devices for people with disabilities and challenges.
Last year they helped design and prototype a stuffy [stuffed animal] that enables a 10-year-old White Salmon girl with severe mental and physical challenges to communicate with her mother remotely. For their efforts Lilli’s team won an award at the regional Project Invent Demo Day contest and were later invited on an all-expenses paid trip to San Francisco to present their invention to over 100 investors and philanthropists.
This year their team is working on a device to help migrant farm workers in our region combat the hazards of toxic pesticides in their workplace. Their automatic hand washing station aims to make it easier for workers in orchards to wash their hands frequently and effectively while harvesting fruits and vegetables that bring them into contact with toxic chemicals.
On both of these projects, Lilli has been a dynamic leader and an inspiration to those on their team. They are humble about their talents and skills, having only recently acquired STEM skills like soldering and coding, but share their enthusiasm readily and fervently.
Lilli is also a talented metalsmith and has a thriving jewelry business selling their gorgeous works.” —Jack Perrin, Founder, Gorge Makerspace