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REP: How I Picked Engineering

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After sixth grade, I was accepted to a week-long summer camp called “CEW” (short for: Careers in Engineering for Women) at the University of Texas at Austin. CEW was the first time I spent more than one night away from my parents (slightly terrifying), lived with a roommate (who wasn’t my sister), and ate real college food (I thought it was the coolest thing!).

It was also the first time I was introduced to the idea of more than one type of engineering and challenged to solve real-world problems with math and science savvy. CEW was the first time I was mentored beyond the core academic curriculum (English, Math, Science, and Social Studies) and encouraged to discover the amazing world of engineering.

So why am I sharing this with you? Well, it wasn’t until after sixth grade that my interest in engineering grew into a passion, because of the nurturing guidance I received from the CEW coordinators (also students of engineering at the university).

Kirsten_ScienceFair-1024x707.jpg Me at my 8th grade science fair: science continues to perpetuate my life at every age

Was there a specific exercise that piqued my interest in engineering? Yes. Aside from activities such as museum expeditions, tinkering, and lego robotics, it was a hands-on chemistry adventure that captured my fascination. I recall mixing together brightly colored solutions (most likely, dyed with coloring to observe the various effects) and watching my mixture change color (pink to clear), feeling it gain and lose heat (tepid to warm then cool), and hearing bubbles fizzle (as the solutions reacted). It was sensory overload. I didn’t know engineering was so…fun! And engineers solve real-world problems too? Who could ask for more? I. Was. Sold. Fast forward a few years, and I found myself pursuing my degree at MIT. I had a lab class each semester that allowed me to get my hands dirty and observe the tangible effects of lessons taught in class; this is exactly what I expected and hoped for since participating in CEW. Likewise, I am given opportunities at Intel to apply theoretical materials science concepts and knowledge. For instance, during my first rotation, I was challenged to delay the corrosion rate of copper-nickel pedestals via materials analysis and preventative maintenance. The goal of the project was to reduce module-induced yield loss of our microprocessors and costly pedestal replacement. What was the coolest part? I spent little-to-no time in my cube hacking away at mundane computer work. Instead, I was usually in a bunny-suit observing, measuring, and analyzing experimental results also alongside other engineers.

I don’t know whether I would’ve gained a passion for engineering as a child if I wasn’t exposed to the field in a unique, exciting, way. Though it is clear to me that I wouldn’t have fallen in love with engineering without the genuine support and guidance I had since CEW—from my mentors and classmates at MIT, to my colleagues and the technical tycoons of Intel.

CEW was a pivotal moment in my adolescence, and the first ingredient of an ever-expanding recipe for my love of engineering. My CEW mentors were earnest, passionate, and eager to share their experiences and knowledge. By their example, and the indelible impression they left on me, I hope to follow in their footsteps and pay it forward by participating in the national program “STAY WITH IT” (SWI). It is also my sincere hope that Intel employees who share a devotion to engineering are compelled to inspire students just as they were, and hoped to be. As for me?  I have been fortunate to have strong support for my blogs within Intel and a job with a flexible schedule.  As a result, it is my intention to support SWI as a blogger for the program (to encourage Intel employees) and as a CG panelist for events.  I also enlisted in other opportunities with parallel efforts… though, I imagine this is only the tip of the iceberg.

Intel has surprised me in many pleasant ways since I began work in 2011.  Particularly, by joining the nationwide movement, SWI, since my passion for engineering grew from a small program in Texas with a similar goal—to encourage a desire in students for engineering. I am eager to make a difference and excited to see where this leads us (Intel, the US., and future generations).

Did you have a similar experience?  Or, a passion to encourage youth in the field of engineering?