Engineers answer student questions, clear up misconceptions about engineering, STEM
December 20, 2013
BEL AIR, Md. (Dec. 20, 2013) -- Army scientists gave advanced math and science high school students first-hand insight into engineering as a career path at a panel discussion in Bel Air, MD Dec. 18.
Six engineers from the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command's communications-electronics center, known as CERDEC, spoke to C. Milton Wright High School students about life as both a student and a professional in the field of engineering, from how to manage college course loads to what to expect at their first job as an entry-level engineer.
Students in attendance were enrolled in advanced placement math and sciences courses at CMW HS or the Project Lead the Way program, which is a national organization that aims to increase the number, quality and diversity of engineers graduating in the U.S.
"My parents are engineers at APG," said CMW HS junior Matthew Baker. "It's always been something that has interested me. I guess it was just the way I was raised. I want to be an engineer and work in Germany."
Engineers answered students' questions covering topics including how to pick an engineering specialty, juggling college coursework and extracurricular activities and what an engineer's daily work day is like.
Panelists also helped clear up misconceptions of life in college as an engineering major. Many of the concerns students had centered around being able to "have a life" in college, fear of having to give up passions for athletics or the arts and what aspects of their education will have true practical use.
"As a young engineer who just made the transition from college to a full-time career, I'm not as far removed from them. Hopefully they will be able to relate to me and my experiences," said Cassandra Reilly, a CERDEC chemical engineer who has been involved with several CERDEC Outreach programs engaging local students in STEM.
Alex White, a sophomore at CMW HS wanted to know more about the degree and career steps required to become an architect or civil engineer, as well as if the classes she takes in high school will be useful later.
"I would have liked to have had this opportunity when I was in high school," Reilly said. "I didn't have older siblings who went through this process, so I didn't know what to expect when applying for college, picking a major and then eventually finding a job."
The engineers on the panel varied in engineering specialty, including mechanical, chemical and civil engineers, and age in order to give students a holistic look at engineering as a career path.
Participants included Andrea Viegas and Delissa Carline, both from CERDEC's Product Realization Directorate; Reilly and Lauren Marzocca, from CERDEC's Command, Power & Integration Directorate; and Giorgio Bertoli and Jeff Chiem from CERDEC's Intelligence and Information Warfare Directorate.
Viegas wanted to ensure students left the discussion knowing there are endless -- and interesting -- job opportunities available to engineers.
"The job of an engineer is always in demand," Viegas said. "While giving tech support for the de-fielding of an old system, we are also contributing to the design of the next new system. With so many opportunities, it is easy to find the area of technology that interests you the most."
While the engineers' ages and backgrounds varied, the panel at this event was unique in one key way, said Erica Bertoli, the lead of CERDEC's Outreach team.
"Four of the six engineers on this panel were female," she said. "At the high school and college level women drop out of engineering programs at a much higher rate than their male counterparts. To have four young women on this panel is particularly unique."
At the conclusion of the discussion, students learned about Department of Defense STEM programs including the eCYBERMISSION competition and the SMART scholarship for service program which functions similarly to ROTC but for civilians in scientific fields of study.