3M Diversity Scholarship a “game changer” for Adrian Houston

​Houston’s work on a development team with 3M helps him learn and also is his way of giving back to the company.

Engineering his future

When it comes to designing and building things, 3M Diversity Scholarship recipient Adrian Houston is a natural. At Blaine High School, he completed a four-year science, math, and engineering program. As a senior, he was tasked with identifying a problem and developing a product to solve it.

Houston drew inspiration from his after-school job at a movie theater, where he often heard patrons complain about people talking during the show. He and his teammates built a prototype of a radio outfitted with headphones that would allow movie-goers to listen to the show uninterrupted.

But becoming a mechanical engineer was proving to be a bigger challenge. Although he was accepted into the U—the only college he applied to—his family couldn’t afford to pay for school. “My mom had health problems and it was hard for her to work. She eventually had to quit her job,” he says.

Houston’s plan was to work full-time while going to school. Then he got an email from the U’s College of Science and Engineering last summer telling him he had received the 3M Diversity Scholarship, which covers tuition expenses for up to four years for students from groups that are underrepresented in science and engineering.

Scholarship came at the right moment

For Houston, it was a game-changer. “It meant being able to fully delve into my school work and not having to worry about working for eight hours every day after spending seven hours in school,” he says.

Having the scholarship also has allowed him to get involved in engineering groups. This year, he was a member of the Society of Women Engineers’ Team Tech, which works with industry partners to solve engineering problems. The team has been working with 3M to create a rapid heating chamber system. “It’s been a great learning experience because you’re part of a development team,” says Houston, one of the few freshmen on the team. “And it’s my way of doing something for 3M.”

The scholarship also enabled him to take part in a study abroad program that took him to Ireland to tour biotech companies over the winter break. “Nine out of the top 10 medical device companies are located there,” he says.

This summer, Houston is interning at the Science Museum of Minnesota, where he will work with inner city middle school students. “These are kids who haven’t had many opportunities to see fields like engineering,” he says. “It gives them an opportunity to learn about them, and I love that these kids have that.”

Photo: Adrian Houston