Jennifer Grigsby is pursuing her mechanical engineering degree at Georgia Tech. Here she shares a little about her career and the inspiration behind it.
What is your specific area of STEM?
How would you explain your STEM field to young girls?
Just about every product you come into contact with on a daily basis, big or small, was worked on by a mechanical engineer. Here are just a few examples:
The list goes on... mechanical engineering is a very broad field and there are infinite applications beyond making cars and building machines!
What traits might a child possess that may indicate an interest or aptitude for your STEM field?
Practical and creative thinking. Lots of engineers will say they were obsessed with Legos, Lincoln Logs, Marble Run, Hot Wheels, etc. when they were kids - or they took apart and rebuilt pens, TV remotes, desks, even computers. This enables them to work with their hands, which breeds spatial reasoning, an understanding of how things work, and a confidence in their ability to create – all essential to engineering, especially mechanical.
What did you know about your STEM field when you were a child?
I didn't know about engineering until high school, when I started looking at colleges. I was nudged toward it by teachers, college counselors, and my family since I was always good at math and science (of course, job security and salary were part of that encouragement too).
I didn't know much about engineering, so I went to Cornell's summer engineering program for girls (CURIE Academy) to learn about the different opportunities in each field and was able to dip my feet in the water by working on a robotics project with a team. After that, I had a better understanding on what engineers do, and knew I wanted to be one!
Why did you choose your STEM field? Were you inspired by someone?
I chose mechanical engineering kind of arbitrarily because I can go in virtually any direction I want since mechanical engineering is so broad.
I think it's a good fit for me because it allows me to think about how things work in a tangible way, I get to work with my hands, and I can apply the things I've learned in school (mechanics, fluid dynamics, system dynamics, thermodynamics, heat transfer, design & manufacturing principles, etc.) to pretty much anything you can think of.
What are some really cool things that people in your profession work on?
There are so many cool things you can do with Mechanical Engineering. You could design parts of an airplane, test the aerodynamics of cars in a wind tunnel, work on a satellite that will be launched into space, design and manufacture toys, build robots, anything!
At my current job as a co-op at GTRI's Electro-Optical Systems Lab, I get to design, order (or sometimes make them myself on a 3D printer), test, and assemble mounting structures for optical, electrical, and mechanical components in laser systems. It's so cool to me that the parts that I've designed actually work and are important to the functionality of the system - that I contributed to a lidar system that will go onto a US Navy destroyer-class ship and help protect our country!
What inspirational message would you give young girls to inspire them to pursue STEM?
Try and get exposure to and experience in different STEM fields so you can discover what you like (and don't like)! I may not have gone into engineering if I hadn't sought out a summer engineering program like the one I did at Cornell, but boy am I glad I did.
Thank you for contributing, Jennifer!
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