Student News

Finding her path

Stella Robinson, Electrical Construction & Maintenance

Stella Robinson has never backed down from a challenge. And she’s never followed a traditional path. 

That combination might be why she has found her calling in the Electrical Construction & Maintenance program at Dunwoody College of Technology. 

Stella Robinson works on a project in the Electrical lab at Dunwoody.

“Dunwoody is the exact reverse of what high school was like,” Robinson said. “In high school I was not challenged, and I didn’t feel like I was going anywhere. At Dunwoody I get challenged every day and when I figure something out I think ‘yes, I did it, now what’s next?’” 

Finding her path

Born and raised in Minneapolis, Robinson attended Washburn High School. During high school, she took Postsecondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) courses at a nearby community college, and remembers seeing the Dunwoody Boulevard sign on her way to class.

But pursuing an electrical degree wasn’t always what she wanted to do.  

“Growing up, I wanted to be a kindergarten teacher,” she recalls. “But then I got practice working with kindergartners for three summers and thought ‘I can’t do that.’ Instead I decided I’ve got to do something with my hands.”

Her path to electrical was actually shorter and more direct than you might think. And it begins with a sport few have the courage to try.

When Robinson was six years old, her mom signed her up for fencing lessons. The hobby turned into a passion, and Robinson now competes locally and nationally in Olympic-style fencing competitions. 

“Those people are my friends and family,” Robinson said. “People who stab together stay together.”

It was through her fencing club that Robinson first gained experience working with low-voltage. The fencing jackets and swords she uses are wired to record points scored and sometimes they malfunction. 

“In fencing you have a metal Lamé jacket, with a wire that attaches to your sword,” she said. “If someone hits a jacket, a light goes on. The cords we use will break, and you have to figure out where the break is. It’s fun getting to fix something.”

Now, just a couple months from earning her degree, Robinson has discovered a career where fixing things is all in a day’s work. 

“Dunwoody has been wonderful. Better than I was expecting,” Robinson said.  

Honing her skills

Her courses at Dunwoody have also allowed her to focus on the skills she already excelled at – building things and solving problems. 

Stella Robinson frames out new work stations in the Electrical lab.

Growing up, Robinson would get in trouble during school for constantly taking apart her mechanical pencils or for building mini structures out of post-it notes in her desk. Now she gets to channel all that creativity into a career that perfectly matches her skill set. 

But that doesn’t mean it’s always been easy.   

As a woman pursuing a non-traditional degree path, Robinson knew she would probably be one of the only women in the room. But the challenge has motivated her to push herself, and Robinson said the support from faculty has made a big difference. 

“It’s nice to not just keep walking along. It’s fun to push up a hill sometime and see what’s at the top,” Robinson said. 

That same attitude may have influenced Robinson’s final group project last year. She and her group decided to take on the challenge of building a plasma globe – the kind that react to static when you touch them. 

First semester Electrical students show off their final projects.

“That sounds like it is going to be pretty easy, but it’s plasma,” Robinson said. 

At first the group couldn’t get it to work. They stayed after, went in early, and still nothing. Finally their instructor suggested they try it a certain way and it finally worked. 

“The whole lab stopped to watch, that was the best. Now, the next challenge is how to make it sustainable,” she said. 

The concept of sustainability is something that attracted Robinson to the field – and to Dunwoody.

“One of the main things that drew me here was the sustainable energy focus,” she said, adding that she is looking forward to learning more during her solar and wind energy class.  “You have all this technology and you get to try it out in a lab.” 

Excited for what’s next

After graduating, Robinson wants a career that allows her to work hands-on and see the world. And she is more interested in fixing things that are broken than installing things that are new. 

“It’s like a puzzle and there is a challenge to make it do what you want it to do,” she said. “For my career, I just want to get my feet wet as much as possible. I want to try a bunch of things, travel to a bunch of places and eventually end up back in Minneapolis. I’m open to anything, but I’d like to do residential to start and green energy would be awesome.”

“I’m excited to get a hands-on job and if I had a desk job, I wouldn’t get to do any of that. Getting a technical degree is the smartest thing you’ll ever do. You’re never going to want for a job. There are so many possibilities.”