Sophomore Hunter Hayden Finds Niche in Keyboard Side Hustle
March 31, 2023
By Holly Hinson
Henderson County, Kentucky native Hunter Hayden always had a knack for science. The sophomore Industrial Engineering student said as a child, she liked to play with Legos and create strange potions in the kitchen. “My mom did not care for those,” she laughed.
Growing up, she maintained a keen interest in STEM and when she saw the popular movie, “Hidden Figures,” a true-life story about Black women pioneers of the space industry, she was hooked. “I fell in love with aerospace,” said Hayden.
Not long after, she attended an all-girls Space Camp on the campus of Morehead State University. “I didn’t know that so many women were interested in it like I was,” she said. “It was an incredible experience studying astrophysics and space systems engineering.”
In her sophomore year of high school, Hayden had the opportunity to apply for Craft Academy for Excellence in Science and Mathematics at Morehead, a dual-credit academy for academically exceptional Kentucky students that provides students with a postsecondary residential experience to complete their junior and senior high school years by enrolling in college courses. The academy challenges students to excel at their highest level through project-based STEM+X courses and hands-on learning experiences, emphasizing innovation, design and creativity, and civic and regional engagement.
When Hayden was deciding on college, she met Jonathan Hughes, Director of Admissions, Outreach and Community Engagement, who she called a wonderful resource. “He definitely got me interested in coming to Louisville and to Speed School,” she said. “He saw potential in me I didn’t even see,” she said.
Hayden’s affinity for STEM led to being named both a Woodford Porter Scholar and Toyota Scholar. When she arrived on campus, she had the valuable experience of being part of the Engineering, Living Learning Community (ELLC) where first-year engineering students live together and become a cohort of classmates. “It really helped to make friends and figure things out together because it’s better to work as a team rather than struggle with it by yourself,” said Hayden. “You’ll be on your own path after that.”
Also through Jonathan, Hayden became a student ambassador and started to give tours on campus. “I’ve become even more confident in talking to groups, projecting my voice and conducting myself,” she said. Hayden also enjoys paying it forward. “It’s good to help families interested in bringing their children here, be a resource for them when they need it,” she said. “I really enjoy when students come and shadow us because I get to walk them around in my day.” Now with a different schedule in her sophomore year, Hayden works in the Admissions Office helping with outreach events.
Initially majoring in electrical engineering, Hayden said she switched to industrial engineering because she loves people. “What better way to combine engineering with my love for talking to people?” said Hayden. Her continuing fascination for electrical engineering, however did lead her to an unusual hobby, which has since turned into a side hustle – making computer keyboards.
Customizing mechanical keyboards for an individual person’s needs, Hayden can use her creativity to put a user’s own personal touch on them, using different colors, styles and types of keyboards. “My main keyboard I use has Bluetooth, and you can also use it for gaming. You can have blue LED or white LED lights, custom key caps, all kinds of things,” she said. “You can make it so that new tablet keys don’t make as much noise, and also it’s a smoother typing experience for whoever is typing.”
The new side business started when Hayden saw different videos of YouTube about creating different kinds of keyboards. “I love being hands-on and once I made my first one, it was fun and people started asking about them,” said Hayden. “I made a few for friends, and then I thought I should make this a little business,” she said. She will soon complete her keyboard website and examples of her work are available on Instagram.
The Industrial Engineering major has also been involved with the Society of Women Engineers, National Society of Black Engineers and part of a Christian group on campus called Cru (the U.S. ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ). Hayden said her involvement in Cru is one way she expresses her Christian faith, and is also how she found out about Filter of Hope, a nonprofit she hopes to work with one day. The nonprofit group designs water filters for countries unable to access clean water. “I actually prototyped a design for a solar power water filter a couple years ago,” she said. “It would be cool to bring that to life.”
The sophomore will do her first co-op rotation at Toyota in Spring 2024, and said she plans to get her Master’s degree and PhD, and one day perhaps teach. But first, she said she wants to travel and design things to help people globally using green energy. “Maybe my future will lie in incorporating that into businesses,” said Hayden. “I have no idea where God is going to lead me but I’m just leaving it up to him right now.”
When she’s not studying, Hayden loves exploring Cherokee Park with her dog and she plays drums at her church. In her freshman year, she was on the rowing team until she got COVID. “I like being active, so hopefully I can get back and do stuff like that soon,” she said. “But for right now, school is the main priority.”
Hayden, who will graduate May 2026, said she loves engineering because it’s a field where it is actually okay to overthink things. “It’s always something new, solving problems and working with a team, and meeting people from different backgrounds who have a different outlook on how problems could be solved,” she said. “Engineering is cool because it’s never a dull moment, and my brain likes to be challenged,” she said.