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UMass Lowell student hopes to engineer Miss Massachusetts crown

Rachel Miller is comfortable in work boots or high heels.

When Rachel Miller was younger, she’d don a tutu, grab a toy hammer, and follow her grandfather around as he worked. He was a general contractor, and she’s always known she wanted to one day fill his shoes (or, more accurately, work boots).

Now Miller, 23, is working on her civil engineering degree at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, and working at Brox Industries, a paving company in Dracut. She’ll also compete this weekend for the title of Miss Massachusetts USA.

The pageant, which will take place Sunday, Nov. 19, at the Lowell Auditorium, includes swimsuit and gown walks, as well as a private interview with the judges. The winner will represent the state at the Miss USA contest next year.

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“There’s something about the [pageant] industry that draws me,” said Miller, who participated in pageants growing up in Dracut. The opportunity to inspire others — especially young girls interested in the science, technology, engineering, and math fields — is important to her.

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“I’ve always had the boots and the heels in my life,” she said.

Through the American Society for Civil Engineers chapter at UMass Lowell, Miller hosts programs at the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Lowell. She walks the kids through activities that teach them the basics of engineering; last week, they built gumdrop bridges that had to withstand Miller’s heavy textbooks.

Miller is hoping a Miss Massachusetts title will give her the platform to bring more resources to children still figuring out what they want to do their lives. She pointed back to the Boys & Girls Club, which gives kids the opportunity to experiment with lego robotics, graphic design, and aviation technology.

“I was their age when I started figuring out, ‘This is the path I want to be on,’” Miller said. “And if I can give them that extra ‘nudge, nudge’ . . . that’s what I want to do.”

Laura Elyse King can be reached at laura.king@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @lauraelyseking.