Surprise is the standard reaction I get when I tell people that I am studying engineering, especially mechanical and materials engineering.
I’m often told that I’m brave for being surrounded by men and machines all day, or that I must have been really, really good at maths at school. People also ask me what I’ve invented and how can I be an engineer if I’m not shy!
Overall, I think it’s fair to say that there are a lot of misconceptions about what engineers do and who we are. It’s important that we spread the word about these misconceptions. So, I have a few engineering myths to bust!
These are the things I have learnt along the way and that I wish I had known when I was at school.
- Engineering is more than maths. It’s important, but you don’t have to be a maths genius to do engineering. I’m definitely not, and I have survived!
- Engineering is fun and hands-on! It’s not about memorising facts; it’s about thinking outside the box and using science to justify your design decisions. Engineers are creative, but, if you don’t feel overly creative or like an inventor, don’t worry because I didn’t either! Studying engineering teaches you how to think outside the box.
- Engineering involves working in diverse teams. We don’t sit by ourselves coding all day! We collaborate and toss ideas around. Teams often have people from a range of engineering disciplines and with different strengths, so there’s space for those who really enjoy science and technology, as well as the super creative, big ideas people!
- Engineering is about people. Whether we’re designing a stove for people in rural Cambodia or a state-of-the-art wind turbine, the first thing good engineers consider when solving a problem is the people using the system. Learning to understand people, their beliefs, way of life and what is important to them is one of my favourite parts of engineering. It’s also something that not many people know about.
- Engineering is an excellent career choice for girls. It’s really important that we increase the number of females in engineering because often, females bring different skills and perspectives to a problem. At ANU, females make up almost 30 per cent of first year engineering and computing students, which is well above the national average.
Also, there are so many engineering disciplines to choose from, such as biomedical, mechanical, environmental, electrical, renewable energy, chemical and humanitarian engineering. I study mechanical and materials engineering, but have also done courses on renewable energy and humanitarian engineering - it has been hard work but very rewarding.
Hopefully I’ve managed to convince you that engineering is probably not what you think it is, and that it’s actually really fun, diverse and full of interesting challenges.
So, next time someone talks to you about engineering, do some engineering myth busting of your own!