Meet Bonnie, a Manufacturing Engineering Student!
Bonnie is studying Manufacturing Engineering at California State Polytechnic University, also known as Cal Poly, in the beautiful city of San Luis Obispo. She is in her third year in her program and plans to graduate next year.
What did you know about Manufacturing Engineering when you were a kid?
I knew little to nothing about the field of manufacturing engineering as a child. However, I recognized early on that I loved building things. It started with my love for playing with Legos. I then progressed to crafting miniature treehouse dioramas for local competitions and building a small scaled solar car for my school’s science fair. The more I built, the more I wanted to expand my craft.
Can you tell us about any challenges you have encountered while studying for your field?
The summer of 2019, I studied abroad in China taking engineering classes with both Chinese and Cal Poly students. For one class project, I was placed on a team of all male Chinese students. Initially, this was quite challenging for us because there was a language barrier. Most importantly, my male teammates did not seem to respect female engineering students.
During the project, I found that I was treated like a secretary. The men in the group left me out of the designing and engineering parts of the project. They treated me like my ideas were not good enough. They decided that I would only be in charge of easy tasks like recording data and collecting the ideas of my male counterparts.
In order to gain the respect of my teammates, I found myself working overtime, in and outside of class. I mastered the course material and scored higher scores than my teammates to prove to them that I was good enough and they could see me as a team member. I always came prepared to project meetings with ideas and with project assignments completed and ready to go. I learned how to use the Chinese social media and messaging app, WeChat, to translate and communicate with my fellow team members. This technology allowed me to share design and engineering ideas. Through my hard work I was able to show my value to the team. Finally, the male members of my team started to respect me.
I want to add that this is not right. Sadly, it’s all too common in male-dominated fields. That is why it is important for women to stand up for themselves, work hard, and stick with their goals. We need more women in STEM. If the engineering field is half men and half women, these situations will not be as common.
Tell us about a time you failed. How did you move on from that?
This year, I am the Team Tech Co-Director for Cal Poly SWE’s competitive project team. Initially, our team was tasked with designing and developing a reusable pillow and disinfecting device for hospitals. We even reviewed current products and patents. We also interviewed healthcare workers and consultants. After three months of hard work and research, we determined that this project was not needed. It was really difficult to abandon our initial project and start again from scratch. Our team decided that we needed to go forward with another project which actually had the potential to meet a critical customer need.
We are now working on the development of a low-cost oxygen generator that can be used in the rural areas of the developing world, where there exists a critical need for such a product. This can be especially helpful in treating Covid-19 patients in rural areas, where they have limited oxygen machines because they are expensive.
What cool projects have you worked on while studying Manufacturing Engineering?
Last year, as a part of Cal Poly SWE’s Team Tech, I worked on the design and development of a standardized wheelchair for use on amusement rides at Universal Studios. It was an incredible and rewarding experience to go through the engineering design process. I gained valuable experience and skills in 3D modeling, verbal and written communication skills, and working on a diverse team. Ultimately, our team was able to produce a working prototype to make the amusement park’s rides more accessible to a wider audience. Our project was well-received, and our team placed 1st at the national WE20 conference.
What advice can you give our readers?
I recommend that young girls considering manufacturing engineering try as many new things as possible and immerse themselves in these experiences. The field of Manufacturing has so many opportunities. There are opportunities no matter what interest one may have.
I would suggest that they participate in as many clubs as they can find time for. They should try to be open to trying new hobbies. If they have a chance, they should try to take classes that they may be interested in to expose themselves to the host of possibilities, especially if they are in middle school or high school.
Doing all of these things will help them develop their skillsets. They will even make friends. In the end, all of these small opportunities will lead to bigger opportunities. Who knows, these opportunities could help them find their perfect career paths.
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