There have many times throughout history where the “impossible” became “possible.” Some people never believed humans would land on the moon until Neil Armstrong spoke his famous words, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Some people believed robots were a thing of childhood fantasy, but now, robots are being developed that can pick up on and respond to their surroundings (thanks, Siri). Innovation is only limited to one’s mindset, according to Friendswood High School junior Soleil Gignac.
Gignac said she has always been fascinated by art, design and aerospace. From an early age, she watched her father work in the aerospace field and was intrigued by the work he did.
“I’ve always had a fascination with aerospace. My dad worked with [Arthur] ‘Art’ Dula who was an aerospace enthusiast,” Gignac said. “It inspired me to take the engineering route in terms of building, creating and advancing.”
However, it wasn’t until high school that she began to pursue her interest. Her freshman year, Gignac helped create the first official FHS Robotics Club.
“When we started, we had nothing to go off of, so we had to start from scratch and establish our own rules,” Gignac said. “Even now that we have established ourselves, we don’t have any guidelines when it comes to building, like the ones that come with the Lego sets. We have to figure things out for ourselves.”
The club sponsor Derek Carter said figuring things out comes naturally to Gignac. He said she is an asset to the Robotics Club because she is willing to do the work most people are not. Gignac is the journal keeper and, as the journal keeper, Gignac keeps notes on the design process of the robots, procedures followed, goals set, progress made for competitions and the planning/results of fundraisers.
“She gladly accepts her role and does a great job going above and beyond by doing the part no one else wants to do,” Carter said. “She’s very selfless and willing to help out however the team needs.”
Gignac sees her humble role as a way to lead quietly.
“I like to think of myself as a reluctant leader. I think to be a good leader, you must first learn how to be a good follower,” she said. “I started as a freshman listening to the seniors and learning from them. I asked as many questions as I could which led to me being in the historian role I am in now.”
Recently, it has been Gignac’s mission to increase the awareness people have of the Robotics Club.
“She has made it a point to make the Robotics Team known, to pursue getting letter jackets and to pursue getting the group in the yearbook,” Carter said. “She wants everyone to get recognized for the work they’re doing.”
Recognition can be hard to come by for smaller groups like the Robotics Club, Carter said; however, the club (comprised of two teams) has already earned recognition for itself by making it to the UIL State Competition the past two years. At their competitions, the robotics teams partner with teams from other schools to work together to complete tasks in a 12×12 arena.
This idea of innovative learning while working with others is something Gignac said she hopes she can carry with her throughout life. She plans on attending the University of Houston Downtown in the Fall of 2020 to pursue a degree in architecture.
“I want to be an architect really badly,” Gignac said. “Besides my love for robotics, I’m also an artist and designer. Architecture is a good balance between my mathematical side and artistic side.”
Despite all of her varying interests as a member of the Robotics Club, MCS and Theater, Gignac has not forgotten her roots and what inspired her when she was young: aerospace.
“I fantasize about going into space and building structures on the moon,” Gignac said with a smile. “Aerospace architecture really peaks my interest.”
As she dreams of a world outside of her own, Gignac encourages other students to challenge themselves to get out of their own bubble.
“Get involved and don’t be closed-minded about what you’re going to do,” Gignac said. “Be as diverse as you can, be the jack of all trades and the master of none. You will learn so many things that play into whatever you want to do.”