This article originally appeared in the summer 2016 Harker Quarterly.
Jacqueline Rousseau ’07 has such fond recollections of her time on Harker’s robotics team that, upon graduating from college and landing a job, she decided to donate funds annually to Harker Robotics.
Rousseau, who now works as a trader in foreign exchange options at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in New York, said that some of her best memories of Harker revolved around time spent on the robotics team.
“We would spend up to 40 hours a week during the six week build season, constructing and testing the robot before going to FIRST Robotics Competitions. Not only did I learn programming, and electrical and mechanical design skills, but the experience of working with other students to complete a full engineering project on schedule was invaluable,” she said.
In mid-March, while in town visiting family, Rousseau dropped by the alumni office to say hello and was treated to a surprise visit from one of her former mentors, Eric Nelson. Nelson is the upper school’s computer science department chair and supervisor of the robotics team.
Since launching at the upper school in 2001, the robotics program has grown into an opportunity for both middle and upper school students to learn real-life engineering skills in addition to providing a fun, competitive environment.
The program is designed to emulate the structure of a Silicon Valley startup company.
“It was so touching to see the two of them reuniting!” said Karri Baker ’84, Harker’s director of alumni relations. Baker called Rousseau an alumna with a strong history of giving, who now serves as a role model for other alumni wanting to give back. Rousseau said one of the best things about Harker is that the teachers encourage students to question the world around them and to keep learning. “Harker helped give me a foundation of critical-thinking skills that have proven useful no matter what tasks I’m working on,” she said, advising current Harker students to take as broad a range of electives as possible.
“Harker’s teachers are some of the best in their fields, and the breadth of electives offered is truly impressive. It’s a great opportunity to take a semester course that may open up a new field of study to you,” she noted.
Rousseau said she is driven to be philanthropic for two main reasons: to give back to communities that were critical in shaping her and to support the education of children who don’t have the same opportunities she had. “I’ve been donating to Harker Robotics since I graduated college so other students will be able to have the wonderful experiences I did,” she said.