It’s summertime in Midland, Michigan, a small town best known to locals as the “city of modern explorers” located two hours north of Detroit, where a bright young girl, a true modern explorer of her own, is learning to turn trash into treasure on her grandfather’s farm.

Monica Bonadies Hansel, a West Palm Beach native, spent her childhood summers building slingshots, puzzles, and other toys from materials and scraps found around her grandfather’s Midwestern farm. Little did she know at the time that her grandfather’s curiosity and creativity would foster a lifelong love of engineering.

When she graduated with her master’s in mechanical engineering from UCF in 2010, she knew she wanted to give back to the school that made such a large impact on her, both personally and professionally.

But most of all, Hansel wanted to honor her adolescent hero, her grandfather, who evoked her boundless love of learning, through the establishment of the Peter J. Gehoski Memorial Scholarship.

“Grandpa encouraged me to follow whatever passion I had, big or small, and that meant a lot to me,” said Hansel, whose grandfather passed away when she was 13. “Even though I didn’t realize it at the time, that would become more and more important as I searched for my place in the world. I found it in engineering.”

Hansel, who also received her bachelor’s in mechanical engineering from UCF in 2009 and is now a gas turbine performance engineer at Siemens Energy, said the summers spent with her grandfather inspired her to be herself.

“Because of my grandpa’s confidence in me and the things he taught me – like using a slingshot or turning trash into treasure – engineering was something I enjoyed but didn’t realize at the time,” Hansel said. “I went to ‘Take Your Child to Work Day’ with my dad at Pratt & Whitney Aircraft in West Palm Beach, and that’s when it clicked. I realized I could have a career in all of the things my grandfather had taught me to find joy in.”

Through the creation of the Peter J. Gehoski Memorial Scholarship, Hansel seeks to give a similar sense of comfort and confidence to current College of Engineering & Computer Science students.

The scholarship was created in 2014 by Hansel and her husband, Chase, an electrical engineer at Harris Corporation. The two fell in love in the Engineering II atrium during the spring of 2007 while Chase was pursuing his master’s in mechanical engineering. The two tied the knot in 2013, and after settling down in Melbourne, a beachside town on Florida’s east coast, they started thinking of a way to give back to their alma mater.

“I met my husband at UCF, and it was important for us to give back to UCF what we received as Provosts Fellows — it’s been a top priority for us,” said Hansel. “Establishing a scholarship in my grandfather’s honor is doubly-special for me.”

The scholarship, which selects one awardee each April, is open to full-time undergraduate mechanical and electrical engineering students who demonstrate financial need based upon guidelines set forth in the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Applicants must submit a personal essay that describes how the scholarship will help the student achieve their academic and professional goals.

For more information about the Peter J. Gehoski Memorial Scholarship, or to a establish a scholarship to benefit College of Engineering & Computer Science students, please contact Michael J. G. McLaughlin, Associate Director of Development for the College of Engineering and Computer Science, at 407-823-4031 or mjgm@ucf.edu.

– CECS –