Engineering student named 2016 Miss Rodeo Idaho

July 22, 2015

Drawing connections between UAV drones, rodeo, NASA, and Idaho may seem like an impossible task. However, these things and more make up the story of NNU mechanical engineering major Heather Skovgard.

Beginning in 2002 when she won the title of Gem State Mini Mite Queen at the age of eight, the Kuna native began a trajectory towards greatness in the rodeo world. On July 15, she was named the 2016 Miss Rodeo Idaho at the centennial celebration of the Snake River Stampede.

Achieving such an honor was a dream come true for Heather, but her hard work won’t stop there. Looking forward, Heather has her eyes on becoming Miss Rodeo America and will spend her time as Miss Rodeo Idaho learning what it takes to reach that next step. This coming December, Heather will take a trip to Las Vegas for a convention that will kick off her reign and continue her journey.

While being Miss Rodeo Idaho will be an intense task in and of itself, Heather is also entering her fourth and final year at NNU. She plans to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in May 2016. Heather credits her involvements at NNU for preparing her for success in rodeo pageants. Since her sophomore year, she has been a member of NNU’s Speech and Debate Team, which she believes helped her become confident in her public speaking ability. During the Miss Rodeo Idaho competition, each participant was critiqued on six different categories—of these six, Heather won five.

Currently Heather is working with the NNU Robotics Division Research Team on a project that utilizes UAV drones to conduct agricultural research. The drones are flown over crops and collect data used to determine if the vegetation is receiving proper fluids and nutrients. This summer the team is focusing their research on onions and peaches.

Last summer, a similar project on apple orchards took place. That research was funded through grants from the Idaho Space Grant Consortium (a branch of NASA), the Idaho Department of Agriculture and the Watson Fellowship. In October of 2014, the team traveled to the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. to visit with the Mobility and Robotic Systems Section. This time spent working with NASA helped inspire Heather’s next dream of working for NASA in the future in the biomedical engineering field.

After graduating from NNU in the spring of 2016, Heather will continue carrying out her role as Miss Rodeo Idaho. Then she hopes to attend graduate school as a next step to her ultimate goal.

Photo credit: Kris Johnson of Simply Kristina Lee Photography.