Grassroots mentoring:
Three HERAtechs volunteer as Girl Scout leaders

HERA laboratory planners was founded as a women-owned firm, and today more than 60% of our staff is female. We understand and appreciate the importance of strong female role models. One place where HERA makes a lasting impact on the next generation is in the world of Girl Scouts, as troop leaders.

Laboratory Architectural Designer Joanne Clausen, Laboratory Subject Matter Expert Rainey Hufstetler and Director of Marketing Reagan Branham are all current or former troop leaders. Their volunteerism molds the next generation of leaders by teaching courage, building confidence and nurturing character in the girls they mentor.


What do you enjoy most about your involvement with Girl Scouts?

Rainey: I have loved watching the girls explore areas a bit outside of their normal comfort zones. I started as a troop leader when my daughter was in kindergarten, and continued as a chaperone in subsequent years, so have been able to watch the same group of girls grow and experience a lot of firsts together. Not only has it been great observing them trying new things with wonder and curiosity, but also watching them support each other in trepidation to help build each other’s confidence.

Joanne: I have been a troop leader for my daughter’s Girl Scout troop for the past four years since my co-leader and I started the troop when the girls were in kindergarten. I am also the troop’s cookie mom, which is a crazy six weeks, but each year gets a little bit easier.

Reagan: I am the leader for my daughter’s 1st grade Daisy troop, but this is actually my fourth time as a troop leader. The first three were troops I helped with simply because I love Girl Scouts. This time around, being a part of something with my daughter and her friends, is a totally different and even more rewarding experience.


What were memorable activities you did when you were a Girl Scout as a child?

Joanne: I grew up in Kansas, so my troop as a kid was very focused on camping and outdoor activities. One of the most memorable activities I can remember is camping with my troop and cooking over an open fire. It was one of my first camping trips and the love of the outdoors has stayed with me into adulthood.

Rainey: I grew up in rural Michigan, so a lot of our activities were focused on farms and orchards. My favorite activity, though, was doing a drive-through safari. It was the first time I saw zoo animals outside of an enclosed habitat. It was also how I learned that giraffe’s have purple tongues – when I was licked by one through the window!


How do today’s activities differ from when you were a Girl Scout?

Joanne: Today’s Girl Scout activities are much more focused on how girls and women can have a positive impact on the world. Not only are we thinking about nature and camping, but also keeping in mind that we are conserving resources and striving to make the world a better place for everyone. There has also been a big push in raising confident, happy and successful girls by acknowledging and supporting their mental wellness and having activities to help girls grow and deal with life’s challenges.

Reagan: I have fond memories of selling cookies and going camping at Camp Widjiwagan in central Illinois. I have one very distinct memory of a troop meeting in my best friend’s house where we talked about our face shapes and color season to help us determine what sort of clothing and makeup we should wear. That is a far cry from what Girl Scouts today is all about!


Any favorite architecture-related activities your girls have done or will do?

Reagan: This year we’re going to construct gingerbread houses, talking to the girls about the architectural process, structural integrity and design aesthetics. Then of course we’ll eat our buildings.

Joanne: We did a landscape architecture activity last school year where girls earned their gardening badge by designing their own 10’ x 10’ garden plot to scale using grid paper. They sketched out the plot boundaries then had to think about how much space the plants would need and how to plant them in their plots. 


Any favorite STEM-related activities your girls have done or will do?

Rainey: We are fortunate to live near the Georgia Institute of Technology campus, where HERA has done a fair bit of work. My favorite trip with my daughters’ troop was taking them to see the Robotarium, which is one of HERA’s projects. The director of the lab set up a demonstration with the robots to show different swarm patterns mimicking ants and flying insects. The programs draw on known swarm behaviors to predict how to modify those behaviors (how to redirect, pacify, etc.). The girls were enthralled at how nature and technology can both mimic and inform one another. They also thought they were the cutest bugs ever and loved being able to get the director of the lab to ‘make them do this now!’

Joanne: Our troop participated in a local day camp organized by our service unit called Pixie Valley. One of the activities was led by a structural engineering professor from the University of Minnesota. He challenged the girls to work in teams and see which team could build the tallest structure out of spaghetti noodles, gum drops and marshmallows. It was so fun to see what shapes they produced.


Any favorite moment from your time as a leader that has been particularly rewarding?

Joanne: I have really enjoyed watching the girls grow. Watching them become almost completely independent when running a cookie booth has been especially rewarding. They handle all the cash transactions and answer any questions from potential customers. Seeing them support each other to meet their goals is rewarding as well.

Reagan: Last spring I took my daughter’s Daisy troop camping for the day, and it was a truly exceptional experience. The girls’ excitement about building a fire to make s’mores, finding a turtle on a hike, creating a skit for the parents, etc. was incredible.