Preparing for Real Life

I'm starting my first real job after I graduate, which is terrifying! But I think it's going to be ok, because I'm confident that what I've experienced at Olin will pull me through nearly any circumstance thrown my way. I'll be working for a 3D printing company called Markforged as an Applications Engineer, which means that essentially I get to make cool artifacts to showcase what the printer can do, and work with customers to improve their designs and help them use the printer. Despite the terror of becoming a real adult with a real house and real job and entering the realm of life after college, I’m really excited for the position! I’m confident that my Olin education has prepared me for the workforce, both specifically and in general.

As a robotics engineer, I’ve had to deal with circuits, software, and mechanical design through my time at Olin. Through the course of study I chose, I feel that my educational experience has given me the breadth to comprehend and study fields outside my normal “operating mode” and enough depth to know what I’m doing. Going into the workforce, I know I won’t know every single thing that is thrown at me, but because I have a solid foundation and growing expertise in a few areas, I’m confident that I can learn what needs to be learned and do what needs to be done to make projects successful, expanding both the breadth of my knowledge and the depth in each field. This has been the case for many of the things I’ve pursued at Olin, doing anything from programming a Pictionary-playing robot to marketing for the Robotic Sailing Team to building a bridge out of spaghetti. So the most generalized statement about my educational experience has been that I have learned how to learn things fast, and I’m still excited to learn new things and have my thought process challenged.

More specifically, I’ve definitely prepared myself in my own way for the career that I want to pursue, and Olin’s resources and capabilities have helped me figure that out. Since I was a sophomore, I’ve helped Olin’s 3D printing space grow and develop (as I mentioned in my last blog post!), and since my beginnings as a 3D printing NINJA I’ve become increasingly passionate about 3D printing and other manufacturing technologies. Because of my excitement, I’ve been able to craft my learning experience around the goal of studying such technologies and subjects. Through projects, classes, and Independent Studies, I was able to do projects that were meaningful to me, and that allowed me to explore working with 3D printers: my junior year I did an independent study in 3D printing innovation and ended up designing a robot that could drive itself off the build plate. I also pursued a project in a Design for Manufacturing class about efficient design and use for 3D printing. Currently, I’m doing a research project in the material properties of 3D printed components and how different printers and print orientations affect a part’s strength. A lot of the things Olin provides have allowed me to really develop these interests – I’m doing the research because I had taken Materials Science my first year, and only once I discovered a way to relate it back to my interests did I realize its value, so the project is partially me re-learning MatSci in the context of 3D printing materials.

A close up of a nylon 3D printed component with embedded Kevlar, printed on the Markforged 3D printer!

Olin’s project-based curriculum has allowed me to explore my own values and passions as an engineer, which I’ve been incredibly grateful for. I think that is where the true power of project-based learning exposes itself. Sure, we talk a lot about how a project-based environment lets you solve real world problems, but more importantly, students can choose their projects and design them to be meaningful and valuable for each individual. The experience has helped me find and develop my passion for manufacturing technologies, which is great, because now I’m going to work for one! 

Posted in: Class of 2016