Claire Crose is a senior servant leader at Living Science. She will be a freshman at Georgia Tech this fall.
You might be an engineer if you can rattle off 35 derivatives and the 2nd law of thermodynamics at any time, but can never seem to remember your shirt size. Or, you might be an engineer if you view preparing Thanksgiving dinner for your extended family as an industrial engineering challenge. In the past, I was determined not to fit these jokes. Let me explain. These jokes accurately depict most of my extended family. This is because my family is full of engineers. Both of my parents are engineers. I have aunts and uncles who are engineers, and grandparents, and great-grandparents who were once engineers. When I was young, I dreamed of being a photographer, a librarian, a teacher, an astronaut, a chemist, an actuary, but never an engineer. In fact, I was opposed to the idea. It’s not that I disliked the field, but I wanted to blaze my own trail, and pursue a future of my own that was different. I appreciated the path they had chosen, but I was certain that I would not follow in their footsteps.
Then, my parents convinced me to take an intro-to-engineering class. I went in knowing I would probably enjoy the coursework (although I didn’t want to admit it), but I was shocked at how much it changed my point of view. During that year, I learned so much, and with each new unit, my interest in engineering grew. When we completed an engineering design project, I realized how much I was already brainstorming solutions to problems around me. When we talked about the different engineering disciplines, I saw how diverse and interesting engineering really is. I never knew that calculating the maximum speed limit for a curvy road could be so interesting! Nor had I ever thought about the need for engineers who did destructive testing until we did a lab that tested the limits of paper clips. I started to see how engineering is an important part of everything, even the little things. Soon I was paying attention to how things worked and why they were built the way they were. Through that class, and my other high school STEM courses, I learned that engineering was not only a combination of my many interests, but also a career I wanted to pursue.
Today, my engineering friends and I joke regularly about how “you might be an engineer.” Other people just don’t understand that ordering replacement parts and watching instructional YouTube videos to reconstruct your vacuum is much more fun than just replacing a broken appliance. Not everyone gets that 4 sets of drawings (and 7 revisions) are definitely necessary for building a bird house. However, instead of avoiding these qualities and quirks, I now appreciate how they can be used. People often say that “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” Although I was once hesitant to admit it, I have found this expression to be true. However, even if I follow in my parents’ footsteps, my future will still be uniquely my own. I have decided to pursue engineering, not because of what my family has done, or because of what my relatives and teachers want me to do, but because it is a career where I know I can use my strengths to make a difference.