Dakota Rostron

Dakota Rostron grew up watching her grandfather work on cars.

“I was always around the smell and the sounds of them,” she says. As a freshman at Princeton (Ind.) Community High School, she walked into the precision machining class and “smelled the same thing. I just recognized it, and I just wanted to do it.”

Four years after that orientation, Rostron won a SkillsUSA silver medal in CNC (computer numerical control) Turning. The same month, she started Toyota’s two-year Advanced Manufacturing Technician program, where she works eight hours a day on Mondays and Fridays.

Every Tuesday through Thursday, Rostron attends Vincennes University to earn her associate’s degree in computer integrated manufacturing. She’s considering two more years of college to get her bachelor’s degree in advanced manufacturing. “When I go back for that degree, it’s going to cover more of my CNC stuff. It will all come together,” she explains.

Rostron’s passion is all things mechanical. In middle school, she participated in Future City, which is sponsored in part by the National Engineers Week Foundation and features competitions. Paying it forward, she now mentors kids in robotics.

Her SkillsUSA experience helped Rostron, who also served as a chapter president, get out of her comfort zone.

“It’s made it easier for me to talk to people. I’m not so shy anymore,” she says. “It will help me in business meetings and communicating with other people in the factory or just walking around town.”

While in a high-school environmental class, Rostron went backpacking at Michigan’s Isle Royale National Park to learn the effects humans have on nature. That experience sparked her ultimate goal: to prototype and manufacture car engines that are better for the environment.

Who knows? Maybe someday, another young talent will watch Rostron work on cars and follow her own senses as far as she can. But thanks to Rostron, the only thing she smells could be clean air.