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Draper Journal

Students learn curiosity, problem-solving are keys to engineering careers

Jan 29, 2020 12:51PM ● By Julie Slama

Otto Block’s Emilie Simpson and Cody Hamilton talk to area high school students about prosthetics that were made with a 3D printer during engineering career day. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Corner Canyon senior Jenna Mills spent the better part of a day listening to engineers, asking them questions, seeking information to better understand career paths ahead of her.

“This is really cool,” she said. “I want to solve problems that help people, and that’s why I’m learning what these people are doing.”

At the engineering career day, which attracted 444 high school students across the Salt Lake and Tooele valleys, scientists from Reaveley Engineers, WesTech Engineering, CCI Mechanical, Stryker, Ivanti, Rocky Mountain Power and more shared with students what they do, why they do it and requirements needed for their careers as well, as answered participants’ questions.

In one rotation, Mills attended Wadsworth Construction’s session, where she learned about bridge infrastructure, even learning about the underwater construction of a nearby Snake River bridge. In another, she learned about Stadler Rail, which constructs both electric and diesel trains in Europe as well as in the states.

According to Stadler Vehicle Engineer Amber Lyerly, the company could be expanding from 300 employees to 1,000 employees — from production to engineers — in the next five to 10 years.

“We have a pathway from high school which will help you get a degree and get hands-on experience,” Lyerly told students. “Basically, engineering jobs are similar. We learn how things work, we engineer or design more, we fix things. One of the most rewarding things for me is to see a project through from start to finish and see it working.”

Mills doesn’t have her mind set on transportation engineering, but rather environmental as she would like to help with water filtration for agriculture in third-world countries.

“It’s the same concept: identify the problem, come up with possible methods or designs to find a solution that helps people,” she said.

In another session, Otto Block’s Emilie Simpson demonstrated prosthetics made with a 3D printer.

“I graduated in mechanical engineering and have had the passion to learn how things work,” she said. “It’s pretty cool and exciting. I like to help people, but I like to be in the background. It’s rewarding knowing we’re on the edge of the future of medical devices.”

Olympus High sophomore Wyatt Comer sat in on their talk as one of his sessions.

“I came to look at careers and get information to learn about my options,” he said. “It’s been kind of cool to learn how they make the prosthetics and how engineering is incorporated into so many parts of our lives.”

That was the goal of the day, said Canyons School District Career and Technical Education Coordinator Patti Larkin.

“We want them to learn about these people’s paths so our students can see what is needed, so they have the opportunity to start sooner, gain an internship, have a job shadow, explore their options as they learn the different types of engineering,” she said. 

In the sessions, speakers shared how engineers have developed and changed everyday living.

At Hunt Electric, Engineering Division Manager Darrin Sanders told students how architectural plans that used to be drawn by hand now are created as a 3D model and “everything is built from that model.”

Austin Loveless, of Boeing, discussed with students why aluminum has been replaced with carbon-fiber composites for their fleet, as it has “almost infinite fatigue life,” less weight, less carbon in the air and larger windows. He said it was through engineering that the composite was made and determined to be best.

VPI Technology’s Gary Olsen said that in their work, there are numerous engineers — research and development, electrical, mechanical, manufacturing, software, application, test, quality control and others.

For example, he said engineers are needed each step of the way to design a cellphone, from designing its look and shape so it’s easy to hold to ensuring dust stays out or how to access batteries. They also make sure it’s functionable and test it to see if it consistently performs.

“Math, especially calculus, our engineers use on a daily basis, but they also use their curiosity,” he said. “You can start learning now. Pop the hood and learn how the car works. If you start now to learn how things around you work, then you’re understanding the culture of engineering.”