McKee, Huffert Win 2017 DeCamara Scholarships

Outstanding FPE Students Earn Academic Assistance

Each year, the Center for Life Safety Education (CLSE) and the American Fire Sprinkler Association (AFSA) come together to award the Philip L. DeCamara, Jr. Scholarship, established to honor a man who was dedicated to the fire sprinkler industry. That scholarship awards $7,000 to two exceptional students studying fire protection engineering at the University of Maryland in College Park, DeCamara’s alma mater. For the 2017-2018 academic year, those winners are Katherine McKee and Lindsay Huffert.

Katherine McKee, the winner of the first place award of $4,000, is a senior studying fire protection engineering. She went into the field because she wanted to make the world a better and safer place. Originally a mechanical engineering student, she discovered the FPE program in her sophomore year and knew immediately that she wanted to dedicate herself to it. “I am genuinely excited about the field of fire protection engineering,” says McKee. “I wake up every morning looking forward to the opportunity to attend class. I am a firm believer in the idea that if someone loves what they do for work they will never truly work a day in their lives, and I honestly love fire protection engineering.”

Katherine McKee

In addition to her love of learning, McKee is equally passionate about teaching. She has worked as a teaching assistant for several courses in the FPE curriculum and has found that her students excel in their coursework. She is currently working as a Fire Protection Engineering Ambassador, where she mentors underclassmen FPE students and also teaches high school students about fire protection engineering through a design challenge. “I love both positions,” says McKee, “because they allow me to help younger students and give back to the next generation of fire protection engineers.”

This past summer, McKee held an internship with Arup, an engineering and design firm, in its London office, where she worked on a project that she describes as the most rewarding experience of her life. To commemorate the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire of London, McKee went through many rounds of problem-solving, modeling and research to create a display of the River Thames that was 393-ft long and 59-ft tall for a burn simulation: a recreation of the Great Fire. McKee was later able to present her work at an engineering conference alongside Dr. James A. Milke, professor, and chair at the University of Maryland Department of Fire Protection Engineering. Dr. Milke was one of two professors who nominated McKee for the DeCamara Scholarship.

“Ms. McKee brings together a blend of talents to all that she does,” says Dr. Milke. “She applies her academic talents, strong communication skills and high level of dedication to fire protection engineering in her coursework and outreach activities for the department.”

In her spare time, McKee does everything she can to help the department. She speaks at every high school presentation, open house, demonstration, and shadowing experience that she can in order to bring talented students into the program. She was recently selected by the Dean of Engineering to represent the University of Maryland at the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) Global Grand Challenge Summit, a prestigious engineering conference between the United States, United Kingdom, and China.

McKee is the first woman in her family to go to college for an engineering or STEM degree, and the only fire protection engineer, although she hopes to change that by being a role model for her four younger siblings. “This scholarship will have a tremendous impact on my life and I can’t thank the scholarship committee enough for their generosity,” says McKee. “I feel incredibly honored and I am excited to pay back this generosity by working hard in my final year of the fire protection engineering program.”

Lindsay Huffert

Lindsay Huffert, a senior fire protection engineering major, was awarded the second place prize of $3,000. Huffert is no stranger to hard work, and has always had an interest in saving lives. From 2013 until 2015 she worked as an Emergency Medical Technician for the Rockville Volunteer Fire Department, while also attending school. “I was able to help a lot of people on a weekly basis, and help to save lives,” says Huffert. “It meant a lot to me to know that I was making a difference on every emergency call I ran.”

Huffert took that passion for saving lives into her college career. She was first introduced to fire protection engineering during her sophomore year of high school. “I was fascinated by the idea that there was an entire career field dedicated to protecting people and property against the threat of fire,” says Huffert, remembering that day. “After hearing about this field, I wanted to get as immersed as soon as possible.” She worked in the campus labs to learn about the physics and principles behind fires, and then as an engineering intern at the R.E. Ginna nuclear power plant to gain practical experience. She currently works as an undergraduate research assistant in the department’s FireTEC program, which performs consulting and fire testing projects for outside companies.

“Lindsay showed herself to be an incredibly intelligent, capable and dedicated student,” says Professor Michael J. Gollner, one of Huffert’s instructors and her supervisor at the FireTEC program. “She is very skilled at adapting to different situations and working with groups, facing challenges head-on and performing very well. She is a wonderful influence on a group, both handling a stressful load of work with ease and brightening a room. It is clear she will become a future leader in the fire protection engineering field.”

Huffert is very excited to have received the second place prize. “I am extremely passionate about fire protection engineering and am excited to share my passion and drive for the career with you, the Center for Life Safety Education and the American Fire Sprinkler Association,” says Huffert. “Being the recipient of this award has only motivated me further to excel in my studies, and focus on my career goals, especially those pertaining to residential sprinkler systems. I hope to utilize the qualities that you saw in me to furthering my career, and use this opportunity to work towards a future in which I can make an impact on the industry.”

The Philip L. DeCamara, Jr. Scholarship was established in 1984. The scholarship is funded through donations by individuals and companies. To find out more about the program or to support the scholarship with your tax-deductible donation, visit

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