Navajo Native American Alumna Weaves Design Thinking Into Her Aerospace Engineering Career

Shayna Begay ’10, ’11 M.S., was featured on NBC News Learn’s “Discovering You: Engineering Your World” video series highlighting young, female engineers. A Navajo Native American who grew up on and off the reservation, Begay discusses in the video how growing up learning skills like traditional rug weaving, silversmithing and pottery taught her to not only design things, but to physically create them. Today, she uses those same skills as an aerospace engineer at the Sandia National Laboratories, a New Mexico company that has been involved with the development of nuclear weapons since World War II.

“As a young Navajo growing up in a rural area, I didn’t have any examples of Native American women in STEM, and I was a first-generation college student. I think having a series like this helps expose students to the possibilities that exist for them,” Begay says. “We need more diversity in STEM because it brings different perspectives together and is crucial to analyzing and solving the problems of tomorrow.”

Occupation (official title): Senior technical staff member at Sandia National Laboratories

Preoccupation (hobby): Poetry, 3D printing, developing classes/experiments to teach at outreach programs

Recent Accomplishment: Helping Navajo Technical University become the first American tribal university to achieve ABET accreditation for its industrial and electrical engineering undergraduate programs.

Last Adventure: Met up with fellow Florida Tech alumni in New Orleans to attend a music festival together.


This story was featured in the Spring 2019 Edition of the Florida Tech Magazine. Read the full magazine here. 

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