|Katie Doonan Scholarship Banquet|
Most engineers know what they are going to be as young children…or at least their parents do. They are the kids buying all the Legos, building extensive hot wheels racetracks, taking apart your TV remote, your radio, creating skyscrapers and machines out of sand and tree bark. When engineers think back on their childhood, fond memories of kinects, toy train engines, and Lincoln logs dominate their thoughts. When I was a child, I liked Barbie. Yes, I played Legos, I built churches…. for my toy weddings, I created shopping malls and homes so my families could interact but I loved American Girl dolls and play mobile dollhouses.
Growing up, I did understood math and science and I was enthusiastic about the physical world around me, but I also loved music, I loved art, I loved the theater. So, while high school was a time for engineers to build trebuchets, solve bridge problems, and study drafting, I was playing the oboe, teaching swing dancing, and working backstage for the theater.
Then one day, my physics class was discussing possible careers and how to apply the science we were learning, and I asked my teacher if I could be an engineer. Laughing, my physics teacher told me I had no chance of becoming an engineer because I wasn’t nerdy enough. I went home and applied to all the top college engineering departments in Illinois. It was the best decision I ever made.
Engineering has this stigma that only the nerdiest, most anti-social Einsteins will make it. The people who like to sit all day in a room and solve science problems. But engineering is so much more than the capability of knowing soh-cah-toa and the Pythagorean theorem, its more than understanding the Jacobean, the LaPlace transformations, or the capillary effect. It’s about improving the physical world around you. Being an engineer is more than Legos and TV remotes, its understanding the fastest way to get Barbie from the house to the church for her wedding. The real world application of scientific knowledge makes engineering one of the most fascinating fields in society. Engineers have the capability of changing the world every day.
With proper financial backing, engineers can explore more than just the math and science in their classes, but the dynamics of race cars, the air flow over plane wings, or the heat transfer of solar panels. Scholarships allow students the ability to focus on extracurricular activities that apply their classroom knowledge and give them crucial real world understanding of engineering. My freshman year I joined the Formula SAE team and used the knowledge gained from my classes to become a crucial member of the drivetrain team and the head of marketing. By the end of my sophomore year, I was the head of the brakes department and also the business manager. Being at NIU allowed me to learn big engineering concepts in a small classroom environment. The teachers and faculty here taught me to pursue all aspects of engineering, which drove me to excel through the Formula team and become one of the two team captains as well as the president of the NIU chapter of the Society of Automotive Engineers. The financial help I was given and the experience I have gained encouraged me to pursue my master’s degree through NIU’s BS/MS program.
Though I may not be your typical nerd, and though my childhood was different than most engineers, through my experiences, I have learned that engineering is more than just Legos, it’s changing the world.