Robyn Hartz has worked as a civil and transportation engineer on projects from the London subway to airports in Malaysia. But once she came to Richmond, she fell in love with the place.
“I’m a horse person and Richmond sounds like horse country — it’s just great,” says Hartz, who moved to the area eight years ago. In that time she’s been working on how air and noise pollution affect transportation.
One of her projects has surveyed pollutants such as carbon monoxide and naphthalene emitted by vehicles traveling from Richmond to Hampton Roads on Interstate 64. Another involved the study of noise levels when a new runway was planned for the Kuala Lumpur International Airport. “For that,” she says, “I had to go to villages that weren’t on the map. It was very interesting.”
In Richmond, Hartz has been active involving women and children in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. “I have a daughter turning 4,” she says. “How do I teach STEM to a 3-year-old?”
One way is to plan programs through Transportation You, a program that recruits girls of all ages to technology. Some involve middle- and high-school girls. Another is aimed at toddlers. It lets them pretend to be airplanes flown by famed pilot Amelia Earhart.
Hartz has an undergraduate civil engineering degree from Worchester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts and master’s degrees in transportation engineering and urban planning from Georgia Tech.
The career path of the woman from New Jersey took her to Massachusetts and New Hampshire. But she says she’s here in Richmond to stay. She and her daughter live in Powhatan, although she had to sell her horse to handle motherhood expenses. Maybe not forever, she says: “The long-term plan is to get horses for both of us.”