Today, I am a mechanical engineering student who dreams of working in the aerospace industry. Today, I know where my passion lies, where my future may take me and the kinds of problems I may be solving. Today, I know who I am. Yesterday (i.e., before high school), I had no idea where I was heading. This is the story of how I chose engineering and why I would encourage others to choose the same path.
When I was young, I dreamed of being a meteorologist. I loved weather. For years I tracked rain, tornadoes and hurricanes across the U.S. As I grew older, my interests began to change. During my middle school years, I dreamt of being a marine biologist. I studied fish, kept aquariums and learned as much as I could about ocean ecosystems. As I prepared to make the transition from middle school to high school, though, I realized I wasn’t as sure of my future as I thought I was. In fact, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life entering high school as a freshman.
My experience with engineering began during the second semester of my freshman year. I was attending a Math and Science Magnet High School, and I was a part of a FIRST Robotics Competition team. As a freshman, I was not able to seriously participate in robot design, but I was assigned the role of a robot driver. I spent dozens of hours driving our robot and preparing for competitions. After a while, I knew exactly how the robot handled, where the flaws were and what needed to be done to make it work better.
I can distinctly remember the first time the team accepted one of my hardware ideas. Our robot was supposed to pick up plastic containers, but it kept dropping them. As one of the robot drivers, I had noticed that the front of containers always slipped before the back. I suggested adding some small L-brackets to the front of the robot to hold the containers more firmly. The team gave it a try, and it worked to perfection; we never dropped a container the same way again.
Experiences like that during my freshman year showed me how much I love to design and solve physical problems. I moved high schools after my freshman year and joined a different robotics team at my new school. It was there that I truly realized my love for engineering. I spent a year learning from the senior members; they taught me CAD, how to use a CNC mill, how to stand up for my ideas and, most importantly, to never stop improving.
When my junior year rolled around, I captained a robotics team for myself. We built two robots that year, the second building off the successes (and failures) of the first. When the dust settled at the end of the year, we found ourselves fourth at the world championship.
During my senior year, I continued to grow. I learned how to manage conflict, deal with difficult losses and how to keep a team together. It was also during my senior year that I decided to pursue engineering as a career.
After my high school experiences, I knew I was going into engineering. I am currently attending college at the University of Idaho, Moscow, Idaho, but I never really thought about why engineering appealed to me until I was asked to write this column. After giving it some thought, I realized that I love engineering because the only opponent I have to face is myself. Admittedly, there can be financial and material limitations in engineering, but your ultimate success depends on nothing more or less than your determination; on your ability to tackle a problem, solve it once and then keep solving it until you fail to find a better solution.
I believe that there is no field more worthwhile than one where you get to come up against yourself, win and apply your newfound knowledge to not only your work but also the rest of your life. The best part is engineers get to do this every day.
2019 Scholarship Winners Announced
SME and the SME Education Foundation recently awarded the Douglas E. Booth Directors Scholarship and the SME Education Foundation Family Scholarships to seven high school and postsecondary students during its awards gala on May 19 in Detroit.
The Douglas E. Booth Directors Scholarship — named for 1992 SME President Douglas E. Booth, FSME, CMfgE, PE, for his contributions to SME and the SME Education Foundation — awarded three $5,000 scholarships to:
- Juliana E. Proctor, Keene State College, Keene, N.H.;
- Carl Rydell, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Ore.;
- Michael Ustes, University of Michigan-Dearborn, Dearborn, Mich.
At Keene State College, Juliana is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in mechanical design engineering/technology. Carl, a junior at OSU, is seeking his bachelor’s degrees in industrial and manufacturing engineering. Michael is a senior at UM-Dearborn and will be graduating with bachelor’s degrees in both mechanical and manufacturing engineering.
Students considered for the SME Education Family Scholarship must have at least one parent, stepparent or grandparent who has been an SME member in good standing for the last two years.
The 2019 SME Education Foundation Family Scholarship recipients are:
- Connar C. Christensen, Denmark High School, Maribel, Wis.
- Rachel L. Linder, Larry A. Ryle High School, Union, Ky.;
- Mallory E. McKell, Maple Mountain High School, Spanish Fork, Utah;
- Benjamin A. Molnar, Poolesville High School, Poolesville, Md.
Connar, who received a $20,000 scholarship, will be attending Michigan Technological University to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering. His father, Bruce Christensen, CMfgT, has been an SME member since 1990.
In the fall, Mallory, a $20,000 scholarship winner, will begin pursuing her manufacturing engineering degree at Brigham Young University. She credits her father, Eric McKell, PE, an SME member since 1995, with inspiring her to pursue a degree in manufacturing engineering.
Benjamin plans to continue his internship at NIST this summer. Next year, Benjamin, who received a $20,000 scholarship, will begin working toward his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Maryland. His father, 2014 SME President Michael Molnar, FSME, CMfgE, PE, joined SME in 1982.
Rachel is intrigued by the career opportunities in prosthetics and surgical tool developments. In the future, she plans to utilize designs with considerations for field repairs and maintenance as well as maximizing material efficiency. In the fall, Rachel will user her $40,000 scholarship to major in biomedical engineering and technology at the University of Louisville. Her father, Charles Linder, CMfgE, became an SME member in 1996.
Prominent Leaders in Composites Manufacturing Recognized
SME, along with its Composites Manufacturing Tech Group, recognized an industry leader and two prominent composites manufacturing companies with the 2019 Composites Manufacturing Awards on April 29 in Long Beach, Calif., during AeroDef 2019.
Douglas D. Decker, FSME, technical fellow, Northrop Grumman Corp., received the 2019 J.H. “Jud” Hall Award in recognition of his distinguished career in aerospace spanning more than 35 years. Decker, who has been an SME member since 2016, was elected an SME Fellow in 2017. He currently leads the Northrop Grumman Enterprise composites team that is developing and demonstrating a significant and novel approach to the design, fabrication, and assembly of composite aircraft structures, which has the potential of reducing nonrecurring tooling costs by up to 80%.
MTorres America was recognized with the 2019 Excellence in Composites Manufacturing Award (Small Company) for its distinction in the field of advanced composites manufacturing, while Northrop Grumman received SME’s 2019 Excellence in Composites Manufacturing Award (Large Company) for its distinction in the field of advanced composites manufacturing.