By Valeria Saborio
“Why engineering?” is a question that I get often. The answer for me is simple: I love to solve problems. Engineering is a popular field for so many reasons. Perhaps, it’s because pretty much everything around us is created by engineers one way or another, and there is always new emerging and exciting technology out there impacting people’s lives. To me, engineering is such a creative field in which I can collaborate with others to solve problems and create efficient and innovative solutions.
While in college, most of your engineering courses can be very stressful, and I have often found myself struggling with understanding some of my classes. Luckily, engineering is a very collaborative field, and you are never the smartest person in the room… there is always something to learn from someone. Here are some tips I have learned from other engineering students and professors that I have applied to my studies and that have helped me tremendously as an engineering student.
Find people and ideas from your field of study who inspire you and learn from them as much as you can. It is hard to stay motivated sometimes; just recently I was studying electromagnetic energy and having a rough time understanding the physics behind it. Dr. Franklin Chang Diaz is a Costa Rican-American former NASA astronaut, who completed more than 1,600 hours in space over 7 missions! His company, Ad Astra Rocket, is working on launching a plasma-based propulsion system. This electric power source comes from the electric fields, heating and accelerating the plasma through the magnetic fields in the proper direction as the spacecraft is ejected towards space. Just learning about this amazing technology gave me a fresh new picture of what I am studying and the actual impact of what this promising technology is doing for us! I have hope that by 2035 we will be able to go to Mars in much less time with this new form of electric propulsion. Franklin Chang’s story inspires me every single time, and he is one of my main sources of inspiration whenever I need a reminder of why I want to be an engineer. This leads me to another tip: stay in touch with the latest technology in your field of study and think about how you may contribute as an engineer in the future.
Dr. Franklin Chang Diaz, CEO of Ad Astra Rocket Company and Former NASA Astronaut
Real-life Modeling / ’Study with Me’ Videos on YouTube:
One of my friends recommended this unusual but effective studying technique. Simply look up “Study with Me” videos on YouTube and you will find videos of people focused and studying for certain periods of time. Simply play their video in front of you while you study. This real-life modeling experience helps your brain stay focused and almost feel as if you have to study harder because of the person on the screen staying so concentrated in their studies. This has become a popular trend, and it seems to work for many students.
Example of Study with Me Video by Youtube Page: The Sherry Formula
Group Study Sessions
This is probably my favorite part of studying engineering: learning from others! Thanks to my math and sciences classes I have met friends who have different engineering majors, and it is so cool to learn from their backgrounds and what they want to do in their fields. As we come together to solve differential equation problems, for example, we all come with different perspectives on the same topic, and it just enhances that collaborative environment that so many engineers enjoy.
Problem Solve by Yourself, No Outside Help
Have your mind struggle for a bit and think outside the box when it comes to problems. It’s easy to get frustrated and want to look at the answer sheet for certain problems. However, as an engineer, you need to train your brain to problem solve creatively and critically. Looking at the answers right away is not going to help. As long as you are trying your best, over time, your brain will develop the skills you need, and you will be able to solve problems easier.
Just as a company has a board that guides and advises, you should have a board of mentors and professionals who want the best for you and advise you regarding your career and personal goals. Whether it is family, friends, professors, and/or professionals, make sure you seek guidance. You were not meant to live life alone; relationships are very important, and wisdom is found in those who seek advice!
Work on Your Communications Skills
I have heard this over and over again from engineers and professors: being able to communicate effectively is your strongest asset as an engineer. I worked as a machine learning data analyst for Amazon’s Alexa launch for Brazil, and the biggest challenge I faced was having to do my job in a foreign language: Portuguese. I spent extra time improving my language skills the best I could in order to understand data properly and code it into our system accordingly. I now love Portuguese! Maybe communicating is a challenge for you, but embrace it as an opportunity to grow and turn it into your strength. As an engineer, you are expected to express ideas clearly, have excellent verbal communication skills, and possess a “can-do” and self-motivated attitude.
Hope these tips help you along the way to achieve your goals as an engineer and help you have a more enjoyable experience studying!
Valeria Saborio is from Costa Rica and is pursuing her Industrial and Systems Engineering degree at Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno, Nevada.