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A South Dakotan’s Commitment Advances Women’s History

In recognition of National Women’s History Month, the South Dakota USDA Rural Development staff salutes all of the inspiring, influential women who are making a difference in society at the local, state and national level.  In line with this year’s theme of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (SMART) we draw strength and inspiration through the tenacity of one woman’s journey, Dawn Emily Ottman.

After a career in the military followed by a decade of success as an engineer, Dawn sustained a head injury.  After years of relearning to walk and adjusting to her disability, she made the decision to work when she could, and not give up.  So what’s a woman to do when she spends her life contributing and now finds herself requiring too many “accommodations” in the workplace?  She creates her own job where she can accommodate her disability challenges.   And so it was in 2005, when CanDew Scientific, a small business of one employee and a renewable energy “green engineering” company was formed with assistance received through the Small Business Development Center (SDBC). Centers of this type are funded across the nation in part with assistance from USDA Rural Development.

With experience in satellite electrical power and learned knowledge in wind and other renewable energy technologies, she advises clients on energy efficiency and conservation techniques.  She does research development of her ideas for the future energy marketplace.  She calls her office building her “Off the Grid Lab”.

Dawn has received two patents and is partnering with the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and National Science Foundation to create a prototype of her first invention (a solar powered LED Christmas light) and exploring ways to optimize her second invention (a hybrid turbine that also collects solar energy).

“My story is a success story or better yet, a story of tenacity,” said Dawn Emily Ottman. “Pure and simple tenacity!  Don’t give up, you may just be the inspiration your fellow woman needs in order for her to imagine her own success.”

Dawn lives in Lemmon, South Dakota with her husband.  She is a cattle farmer’s wife, an engineer and a successful inventor.  In her spare time, she is a poet and writer.

To learn more about how to form a small business click here.  To learn more about USDA funding for business development centers click here. To view photos taken during the observance of Women’s History Month at USDA click here.

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