Rachel Rotteveel of Neshaminy High School has written the following article, posted at PhillyBurbs.Com, to explain why high school students find engineering an awesome career.  Her observations are based on attending an engineering camp at U of Maryland.

When most people hear of engineers, they often think of nerdy, tech-savvy, science fair geeks who lack social skills and compute equations all day long.

However, most people do not realize engineers are some of the most creative, innovative and hard-working people in America — and some have the coolest jobs ever.

Engineers invent, design and create almost every piece of technology we use today. This includes items as diverse as cars, iPads, bridges, pacemakers and wastewater treatment systems.

SUNY ESF students heading into the field to gather data for a river restoration project as part of an engineering design class.

Engineering is an extremely broad and diversified field of study. Practically every item in your house an engineer has had a hand in creating: the lip gloss in your makeup case, the microwave oven in your kitchen, the printer in your office, the remote for your TV. Basically, our lives would be extremely boring without engineers.

Earlier this month, I attended an engineering camp for women at the University of Maryland, which explored the different engineering disciplines (mechanical, chemical, environmental, civil, electrical and computer, biomedical, aerospace, fire protection and materials science).

Have you ever seen a nuclear reactor, virtual reality lab or neutral buoyancy tank? Do you even know what these things are? I was able to visit and experience them firsthand.

Throughout the week-long program, we were presented with a number of challenges. I learned the importance of teamwork in completing a project. Although extensive knowledge of math, science and technology is required to be a successful engineer, an integral part of creating a new design is working well with others.

I was continually placed in small groups of four or five students and given challenges, such as building a truss bridge out of Popsicle sticks. In reality, the point of the project wasn’t to build the most attractive bridge (although I secretly hoped mine was the prettiest). Instead, the purpose of the project was to build a sturdy, lightweight bridge, effectively achieving the greatest load-to-weight ratio.

Near the end of the camp, we were asked to present a final project. We had to design a piece of technology that would pertain to one of these categories: health and nutrition, environment and energy, or technology and cyber-safety.

So, naturally, the first question I asked myself was, “What does the world need?” My group designed an umbrella that captures and purifies water to increase the supply of drinkable water. We also created a life-size prototype and described how we would market this item to consumers.

Amazingly, all the groups came up with terrific ideas. It was inspiring to see how much students could accomplish within one short week, which excites me to imagine all the things I could design and implement with many years of engineering experience in the future.

For me, one of the highlights of the camp was meeting Maryland engineering students and alumni. This was when I realized how awesome engineers really are. One of the engineers was working on a satellite at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab, while another was working at GE Healthcare to build incubators for premature babies. Not only were their jobs extremely interesting, they were making a difference in people’s lives!

I may not become the next Steve Jobs, Madame Curie or Albert Einstein, but I aspire as an engineer to improve the world. In my lifetime, there will hopefully be a cure for cancer and AIDS, a solution for the growing energy crisis and the creation of an innovative techno gadget that will revolutionize the world.

But there is one thing for sure: Engineering will play a part.

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