In the US, about 20% of engineers are female. Ladywood High School, in Livonia, Michigan is working hard to raise those numbers with the help of the STEM program (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics). Recently, I had the privilege of speaking to the all-female Engineering Graphics class about my journey as a Mechanical Engineer and experiences with SOLIDWORKS. The girls have been using SOLIDWORKS in the classroom this year to introduce the concepts of Computer Aided Design.
My main focus of the presentation was: Don’t quit. An engineering career isn’t limited to the limited topics studied in high school or college, but the groundwork for a degree is challenging. Blending together subjects such as calculus, physics, and mechanical design, an engineering degree is not obtained without some hard work, critical thinking, and challenging senior projects. Once the work is complete, this training will be your ticket to a great career in a broad field.
The life of an engineer
While at Ladywood High School, a student asked the question: “What is the typical day of an engineer?” I replied in honesty, it can be a day spent behind a computer, on the field wrenching on things, a day of meetings, designing graphics to support a product, sales, customer visits, a day of travel, a day at trade shows, or a day of whatever form of engineering interests you! The girls were interested to hear that the engineering field offers a broad range of career paths.
Starting off as an engineer
I began my engineering career in the great industrial state of Michigan. I was designing automotive components such as valves, shafts, housings, pins, modules and pumps. I was off to a tedious start because I wasn’t particularly interested in the fuel systems I was designing.
I explained to the young women that my engineering life changed in 2007 when the small company I was working for purchased SOLIDWORKS. It was my first experience with 3D CAD software since college, where I used an array of disappointing and difficult to use 3D CAD packages.
I taught myself to use SOLIDWORKS and began modeling fuel systems in 3D. The parts began to make more sense and I soon understood how parts were fitting into the puzzle and interacting with each other -- I liked modeling parts! It was a challenge to see how realistic I could make the parts look and it was fun. Yes, engineering was fun and it made sense.
I moved on to other companies that also used SOLIDWORKS and found a home in Tech Support at Fisher Unitech. Tech support is a great melting pot for the parts of engineering that I personally enjoy—SOLIDWORKS modeling, IT and working with people. I get to see many applications for engineering every day: Home design, automotive, high-end woodworking, military, food industries, jewelry making, and more.
SOLIDWORKS in the classroom
At Ladywood High School we spent some time looking at a model I drew of my house in SOLIDWORKS. The girls were interested to see all of the detail and enjoyed to see how I used SOLIDWORKS to render the rooms to look like the real deal. The fun accents like lawn furniture and materials illustrated that mechanical design is a very broad field. I explained to the girls that everything needs to be designed and so do the machines that manufacture it.
STEM is changing the way young students are able to experience a variety of engineering career paths through science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. This classroom in Livonia, Michigan has a new perspective and so can other students. So don’t quit engineering, because the world is waiting for you!
About the Author
Amelia Pillarelli has a Mechanical Engineering Technology degree from Eastern Michigan University and has worked in the field with SOLIDWORKS for 10 years as a mechanical designer. She is a Technical Support Engineer and a 3DU Training Instructor at Fisher Unitech. As a strong believer in the power of user-friendly 3D CAD software, Amelia enjoys showing others how to get the most out of using SOLIDWORKS software.
Image courtesy of mistempartnership.com