Month: October 2015

Building Bridges – Part 3 of Julia’s Engineering Journey

Building Bridges – Part 3 of Julia’s Engineering Journey

By Julia Thompson, Ph.D.

After the reading about innovative cook stoves in my junior year of college (described here), the professor (Dr. Kammen) announced a talk about cook stoves. The talk was centered on an initiative to fund cook stoves as a way to reduce indoor air pollution and invited the class to attend. The presenter stated that the principal goal was to raise 50 million dollars to fund a project that would provide seed money for communities. This would grow local businesses that developed and built the stoves, and burned cleaner to reduce indoor air pollution. Over fifty percent of the world’s population uses biomass, such as wood or dung, for cooking. Many of these stoves create tiny particles that build up in the homes result in significant adverse effect on human health.

During a break, I headed to the snack bar and talked with a graduate student studying public policy. We discussed the fact that there is little co-mingling among students in different disciplines. I was probably the only engineer in the room, and I thought this was a topic in which engineers should be engaged in. She also said there was not much attempt within public policy to work with engineers. We agreed that greater collaboration was necessary.

I had to leave the talk early to go to my bio-chemical engineering course. Usually, the class consisted of lectures on formulas describing bio-reactions, such as calculating the reduction in reaction time that accompanies the use of a catalyst. This course was a chemical engineering elective, and I chose it either because it seemed the most interesting to me or because it fit in my schedule. I don’t remember.

This day, however, was unique. We had a guest lecturer, the vice president of a large pharmaceutical company. The guest lecturer described the process required to bring a drug onto the market, including the clinical trials, patents, potential governmental blocks, and the costs that it entails. He used the example of a cancer drug that cost billions of dollars to develop and required many years to receive FDA approval. He concluded the talk by reading a heartfelt letter from a woman who had cancer and was able to live longer because of the drug he and his company produced.

Connection to my Journey

Two things struck me that day. First was the separation on campus—the lack of discussion across disciplines—and the second was the inequality it represents. The engineers were not present at the cook stove talk, as that was not considered a normal topic for them. Although I don’t think engineers should go out and design all the cook stoves—the last post highlighted why that wouldn’t work—they should be involved in the discussion of appropriate technology.

The second thing that struck me was the inequality of the situation. The problems engineers faced were much more likely to impact wealthy populations and not marginalized populations. Engineers were being presented a picture that the way to make a meaningful difference in people’s lives was through major industries, like pharmaceuticals, in the comfort of their own classrooms. Large industry has a significant influence on engineering education in the United States. They serve on advisory committees, providing input on graduation requirements and courses, and in my experience that day, even the vice presidents comes in and gives lectures to the class. Thus, engineering students are presented with a clear career pathway into industry through the universities and professional societies, while I did not see any pathway present to serve disenfranchised communities.

This is the day that I discovered my passion—to build bridges: engineering, and social —and thereby open more pathways for engineers to make a meaningful contribution in marginalized communities.

I should mention that since Fall 2005, the time I am writing about here, I have learned about many engineering programs that do a good job introducing engineering students to social and environmental contexts. Here are a few – Engineering service-learning and community engagement programs, such as Engineering Projects In Community Service (EPICS) at Purdue, the Global Project Program (GPP) at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), Community Playground Project at Louisiana State University (LSU), and Humanitarian Engineering Major at Colorado School of Mines. The first three were cases for my dissertation work, and I know these programs well. This list programs are just a few that intentionally embed the engineering context in real life social and environmental context.

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Image Creating Solutions illustrated by Frits Ahlefeldt 

Flying machines represent our ability to leave the ground and live in three dimensions

Flying machines represent our ability to leave the ground and live in three dimensions

By Richard Mark French, Ph.D.

I think some engineers – though certainly not all; we can be real stiffs sometimes – relate to their work in a very spiritual way. I also think that the spiritual nature of their work is extremely personal, just like the spiritual dimensions of anyone else’s life. Alas, I can only tell you about my own experience. For what it’s worth, here it is.

I was trained as an aerospace engineer and, for as long as I can remember, was very interested in things that flew. My first talk on the subject came in 1st grade when my teacher, Mrs. Udale, asked if I would be willing to explain the recent Apollo flight to a 6th grade class. It was 1969 and the Moon landings had grabbed the attention of the nation. News from the Apollo program was also a welcome relief from the news from Vietnam. I have no idea why Mrs. Udale asked me to do this (I was 6), but I agreed and it went fine. Looking back, I only recall making one technical mistake – I got part of the reentry process wrong. Why the class was willing to listen to me, I don’t know. Perhaps the enthusiasm was contagious.

Ever since I can remember, flying, or more specifically the machines that make it possible, were irresistible. They allowed us to live in three dimensions rather than two. They took so much of what we knew about engineering and brought it all together in a form I couldn’t help but find beautiful. Even now, when I see a machine that flies, I react a little emotionally. I guess that’s spirituality in some form.

As I grew and learned more, I began to appreciate more about things that flew. I learned their sounds and even their smells. Burning jet fuel – really just kerosene – has a unique smell that even now makes me think of wonderful flying machines.

So what about these machines do I find spiritual? I had to become an aerospace engineer to really understand. These machines embody our aspirations and we often do our best to make them elegant and beautiful. When we get them right, they are just wonderful.

I’m no philosopher, but I suppose this might be the difference between religion and spirituality. What I’m talking about is just machines. They have no existence beyond the physical, but what matters is how we react to them and what they bring out in us.

When I see a picture of a Saturn V rocket, it seems more to me than just a machine. It represents our first tentative efforts to leave the Earth. We may eventually look at this machine like we do Leif Erickson’s Viking Longship. And, of course, the engineer in me marvels at how well it eventually worked, how quickly it was built, and how capable and inspired those engineers were. I wish I could be part of something so great, but I suspect our country no longer does such grand things.

An odd side effect of finding spirituality in flying machines is the ways that I react to different ones. Some are utilitarian, rather like a bus or a truck, and are just something to be noticed. But sometimes, it’s clear that people who designed one particular plane really got it right. The humble Cessna 150/152 is safe and durable; it was the plane in which I and many others learned how to fly. I just love that plane. Jon Sharp’s Super Sport class racer, Nemesis NXT. The Hawker Sea Fury (even though the horizontal tail is wrong). The Supermarine Spitfire Mk. XVI (even though the landing gear is wrong).

High performance sailplanes are at the very top. They are elegant and beautiful, designed to be at one with the sky, extracting the tiny amount of power needed to sustain flight from natural air currents. A long time ago, I flew a Blanik sailplane to 11,000 feet near Black Forest, Colorado. The silence and the beauty of that flight, even though the plane was an aging trainer, created in me a memory I will never forget.

To me, these flying machines represent our ability to leave the ground and to truly live in three dimensions. They mean that we can see our world from above and travel it as we like. We live differently. We think differently. We see our Earth differently.

Think about what living in two dimensions really means. The Great Wall of China is nowhere more than 30 feet high. But, for a thousand years, it was an absolute barrier and only because it was impossible to get 50 feet off the ground and move about. That’s a captivating thought.

Centuries after that wall was built, my grandfather came west in a covered wagon, traveling no faster than a horse or ox could walk. It must have taken months. However, I flew from Indiana to California three days ago and returned yesterday. Along the way, I saw mountain ranges, part of what I think might have been the Grand Canyon, and the Mississippi River, all in about four hours.

All this isn’t mystical. It all obeys well-understood physical laws. It doesn’t require attempts to commune with some spirit. Just the same, I think it is spiritual. The fact that the physical laws making all this possible seem somehow to be woven into the fabric of creation is enough for me.

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Photo- Unknown NASA employee, scanned by Kipp Teaguehttp://www.hq.nasa.gov/alsj/a17/images17.html (Image number KSC-72PC-589) Direct link: http://www.hq.nasa.gov/alsj/a17/ap17-KSC-72PC-589.jpg

Should the engineers be held responsible for war crimes?

Should the engineers be held responsible for war crimes?

By Julia Thompson, Ph.D.

Today, I am going to break from my story line, and write about another topic that has been on my mind and heart: the ethical and legal responsibilities for engineers who design Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS).

A few months ago, I was with a group of Quakers discussing LAWS policies, which is a Quakerly thing to do. You see, Quakers do not have a creed, but if they did, it would likely be that there is God in every person. We regularly discern what this means for us and how to live our lives accordingly. Quakers are well known for being the first religious organization to condemn slavery. We have fought for women’s rights and the ability to be given conscientious objector status in wars. We see our advocacy and peace building work directly intertwined with our spirituality and ministry in the world. There is even a Quaker lobbying group in Washington DC, the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), of which I am on the governing body (along with more than 200 individuals). If you are interested in learning more about policies Quakers support, I recommend that you read FCNL’s policy statement: The World We Seek.

So the other day, a group of Friends (a.k.a. Quakers) were talking about autonomous weapons systems and associated policies. LAWS are robots that can identify a target, and destroy it without any human intervention. Humans have no control over these robots when they are active. These robots have not yet been created; drones today either have humans controlling them, or humans have the ability to over-ride them. The key distinction being that LAWS do not need humans through out their process, and the United States is on a path to develop them.

Human Rights Watch and Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC) argue for banning LAWS technology because such “’weapons would not only be unable to meet legal standards but would also undermine essential non-legal safeguards for civilians.” Their research suggests that the technology could not meet the ‘Laws of War’ that were established at the Geneva Convention. These laws protect civilians from death and terror. They claim that these weapons would be unable to detect if a person is a civilian and would be unable to act based on emotions and compassion in a situation, and this violates the Laws of War.

The Heritage Foundation, which argues in favor of the development of LAWS, states that the United States need to pursue the technology to maintain military advantage. The Foundation says that the technology will be either used in combat zones with no civilians and advance to a point where human rights of the civilians would not be violated, so essentially, the weapons would not kill or terrorize civilians.

Essentially, the main arguments surrounding the use of LAWS comes down the question of whether or not the technology can be designed to meet legal regulations required by UN laws for international human rights, if the weapons will be able to determine if the target is a civilian. This is a question that needs to be discerned by engineers, while also contemplating whether the engineers are responsible for the civilian deaths that do occur? This leads me to question: if technology results in human rights violations, should the engineers, designers, and managers be held responsible for war crimes?

Volkswagen emissions

This may seem like a weird tangent, but I see this question connected to the recent VW emission scandal. Last month it came to light that VW developed and implemented technology that cheated emission tests, resulting in higher emissions than published technical specifications. The software within VW cars resulted in less emission when it was being tested compared to its normal use. The United States Department of Justice is pursuing legal recourse, and the manufacturer undoubtedly will be required to pay fines and fix the vehicles.

In the VW scandal there is one thing that is clear, engineers did something wrong. This is already being declared an engineering ethics case, pinning the problem to both the role of the individual engineer and the culture of engineering. Brian Benchroff, a writer for Hackaday, points to the individual engineer’s responsibility stating, “[s]omeone with the authority to say ‘no’ didn’t, and this code was installed in the electronic control unit of millions of cars. This is the teachable moment of this entire ordeal; at some point, someone who should have known better. At least one engineer will lose their job over this, and certainly more than one executive will be hung out to dry” [sic]. Benchroff sees the need for the individual to step up and do what is “right.” Shannon Vallor says to IEEE Spectrum that it was the culture of engineering ethics which resulted in the VW case. Engineers tend to link ethics to be connected to “externally enforced rules” that need to be “checked off.” Ultimately, this norm “implies that as long as you don’t get caught violating rules, there’s no harm.” Vallor suggest re-structuring engineering ethics at the university level. Paul Kedrosky from the New Yorker points to the nature of engineering organizations. Kedrosky suggests that the engineers made small tweaks over time that resulted in significant changes in emissions outputs.

I believe the software engineers who were creating the code most likely knew what was happening. The managers signed off on the software design, and the design came to production. I’ve thought about what may have been going through the minds of these engineers. The desire to solve a problem can be so enticing that it can be deeply fulfilling to create a solution in the presence of design constraints. In Germany, engineers often optimize for quality, even at the expense of efficiency and cost. They may have been thinking about how to create a quality car that passed emissions testing—and that is what they did. But in doing so, they broke the law, and they eventually got caught. They may not have even known or understood the law they were breaking during the design process.

VW will no doubt be turned into a pivotal engineering ethics case from here on out. There is a certain amount of simplicity that engineers tend to love. There is a clear legal violation, and the blame seems obvious from afar. Undergraduate students will be reading a one- or two-page synopsis outlining the context, and writing papers about the ethical dilemmas and the importance to follow environmental regulations. This can be created as a supplemental assignment for a mechanical engineering course, and bring a bit of social responsibility. This is a good start, but in engineering education, this is too often where it ends.

My Answer to the question – If technology results in human rights violations, should the engineers, designers, and managers be help responsible for war crimes?

In the VW case, it is clear that the engineers involved in designing the emission system are to blame, yet, at least for me, the answer is more uncertain in when it comes to the autonomous weapons, and I do not know exactly why.

The software in VW case was ultimately designed to cheat laws. This may have been a result of a few “rouge” engineers, a culture breaking rules as long as you don’t get caught, or a series of small errors. It is the engineers’ responsibility to make sure that the system was able to meet the legal design requirements, and if it was unable to, the cars should not have been produced nor gone to market. The fact that they did demonstrates that the engineers were in direct violation and should me held legally responsible. On that same note, if engineers are unable to design autonomous weapons that result in harm or terror to a civilian, the technology should be deemed illegal. If the technology does “go to market,” the engineers then should be legally responsible for the outcomes.

I must mention that this argument upsets me. It takes away the people being killed, the lives being terrorized, and the sleepless nights experienced. The people on the other side of the technology are real people. They have love ones, children, and mothers. When you are sitting in a cubical somewhere and working out very impressive code to produce one of these weapons, it is easy to forget the impacts of the weapon. We as humans separate ourselves from war. It used to be that soldiers were on the front lines pulling a trigger, but as technology moves forward, it’s the engineer who is.

In bringing up the question of whether or not engineers are responsible for crimes enabled by their work, I could not imagine a world where the answer is “yes, definitely.” There can be extreme situations in which engineers are blamed for something that was completely out of their control. Consider how the legal system might hold engineers criminally responsible for design. Could a chair that was used in a crime be accused of negligent design because the material was rigid enough to cause blunt force trauma? Yet, I believe there is a case to be made for looking at the materials selected to ensure that a chair is not off-gassing contaminants or producing negative health impacts. If the chair is doing exactly what it intended to do, and is causing harm to a person or the environment, then there is a problem and the engineer should hold some responsibility.

I also worry that the answer will be a “no.” Engineers should not be responsible for the end-use of the technology they create. This is similar to the “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” argument. I do not buy this argument. I think all designers and engineers need to contemplate and struggle with their impact on society, and take responsibility for their outcome. The gun itself kills when it was designed to without a human pulling the trigger, and then the designer of the gun holds some responsibility.

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The image or file is a work of a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), an agency of the United States Department of Defense, employee, taken or made as part of that person’s official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain.

Recalibrating

Recalibrating

By Lorien Neargader

In 1995, I earned a BS in Mechanical Engineering and proceeded to work for 9 years as an engineer for Lockheed Martin… And then I left the corporate world in order to teach yoga full time. When people hear this, they often remark how different engineering and yoga are, but I see them as a continuation on the same line of inquiry:

What works and what no longer works? What can I do to change what no longer works? How do I know it’s changed?

Whether it’s an engineering problem, or a physical challenge, an unwanted emotion or disruptive thoughts, I still employ the same process.

Building the model

When I enrolled in my first 200-hour yoga teacher training program, I was overwhelmed by the anatomy and physiology material (still a challenge for me). I fell back on the way I had become used to looking at complex machines, as a series of pulleys, levers, pumps and fluids. I understood the lift of the leg happened because the muscles on one side of the bone shortened while the ones on the back of the bone lengthened, which took me back to my physics courses. I also gleaned that if a muscle on one side was organically short, it would inhibit the movement on the other side, etc. While I couldn’t name all the muscles, I could intuit how to adapt the body in order to elicit more range of motion. As I delved deeper into the organic workings, I realized that the fluids move through valves similar to the way I had learned in fluid dynamics, and the ideas of pressure and inner rhythms began to make sense. I had become so used to imagining the problems in my head that when the concept of energy flowing was presented to me, it didn’t feel foreign at all, just another medium subjected to external forces.

Testing the model

Sometimes there is no answer to the discomfort of this life. Sometimes, the answer is “I don’t know.” I do try to exhaust all my resources when I’m working on a solution, though. How do I know if it is a solution? I test it out.

All my yoga practice is experimental and experiential. For example, today I was working with an older man who had years of yoga practice but who was dealing with painful tingling in his right arm from cervical impingement. His range of motion and functional movements are now quite limited. As I was propping him up, I told him, “This is my working hypothesis; tell me if it makes the tingling better, the same, or worse.” We tried several ideas and settled on one that tested out true… for now. I always ask my students to test what it is we’re doing – even if it is something they have done before – and determine if it still makes sense for them to do it. Do they feel exhausted, in pain or more agitated after working with me? Those are red flags that we haven’t yet met the right combination of practices. Sometimes it means that I’m not the right teacher for them, in which case I usually ask what does work for them, so that I can add it to my tool kit.

These initial models that me well in the beginning of my teaching. They formed a sort of outline for me, and the more bodies I worked with, the more details I added. The models don’t always hold up now, because I’m seeing people in terms of time, space and emotions.

 

Dismantling the model

Several years ago, I was taking a private lesson with one of my teachers and she asked me to sit and visualize a certain energy in my body. During that sit, I realized that I had been visualizing my body as a wireframe 3D model that floated somewhere over my right shoulder. The lines of the rendering were red, similar to the computer-aided design (CAD) tools that I had grown used to using during my engineering days. When this teacher asked me to feel something in my body, I actually modeled it instead of feeling it. She “saw” or understood what it was that I was doing and asked me to let go of the model. I had to then map the sensations onto my own body, and track them real-time. This was a bit frightening for me at first, but I’ve since grown used to it. I can also map what someone else is feeling onto my own body in order to deduce what shifts are available to relieve suffering, if any.

The more I know, the better the models can be. My tools are calibrated and recalibrated during my own practice and study about yoga, and I hope that never ends.

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photo credit: lotus via photopin (license)

Silent Traditions- Part 2 of Julia’s Engineering Journey

Silent Traditions- Part 2 of Julia’s Engineering Journey

By Julia Thompson, Ph.D.

The same semester that I started to prioritize my interests, I took an energy and society course and read the article, “The Silent Traditions of Developing Cooks,” by Emma Crewe. This paper initiated my reflections on the “silent traditions” of engineering and how the education system perpetuates these traditions.

In the paper, Dr. Crewe described how Americans and Europeans attempted to provide aid through cook stoves in Asia and Africa in the 1970s and 1980s. These projects were being funded based on the premise that new stoves would save trees, help poor women, provide opportunities for local artisans, and reduce pollution. The “developers” were known as “stovies” and were largely mechanical engineers and energy experts with economics backgrounds. In their attempt to help people in Asia and Africa, the “stovies” came face to face with their own “silent traditions,” underlying cultural norms that ultimately resulted in the projects’ failure. Here are two incorrect assumptions the developers made through their work.

  1. Fuelwood crisis

The push to develop cook stoves was largely driven by the wood fuel crisis, a concern that the growing population of households that used biomass for their main energy production would be a main driver in deforestation. However, the “experts” on these development projects did not recognize that the greatest threat to deforestation was the clearing of land for agriculture, and not for fuel. Once the fuelwood crisis was debunked, donors began to pull their funding. It was at this time that the real needs of the community emerged, such as the need to address indoor air pollution.

Basically, the stoves were well-funded when they were useless and the funding stopped as soon as the designs started to meet the needs of the communities.

  1. Not validating the (female) users expertise

Because of the threat of deforestation, the first round of stoves focused primarily on fuel efficiency and did not prioritize the users’ experience. The stoves were designed by technical experts (mainly male engineers) and did not include the people using the stoves (mainly women). Among the engineers was an expected norm that the local customs were “backward” and were inferior to the scientific approach of the West. Additionally, women’s work was seen as inferior and disconnected from technology. These beliefs resulted in engineers working on these stoves specifically for fuel efficiency and not the cooking desires of the users. Later studies showed that many of the stoves designed by engineers were less efficient than the previous practices of the female uses. For example, Zimbabwean cooks used less fuel by building a wall around an open flame and immediately extinguishing the flame once they were done cooking, while the engineers were focused on not having an open flame to save on efficiency.

The connection to my journey

Reading this paper as an undergraduate student was an insightful experience and began a personal paradigm shift. At that time, if I were to design a stove for a community in Kenya, I would probably have done exactly what those engineers did. I would have thought that I needed to design for fuel efficiency and would have been blinded by all other dynamics. I am ashamed to say that I held many of the same assumptions and did not considering larger social issues, such as environmental degradation, gender dynamics, and power/privilege within the scope of engineering. Yet, these topics influenced engineering design.

In recent years, I have seen students at a sustainability conference highlighting their stove designs for villages in Haiti, saying that the cost was only $10 (something that would be out of reach for a Haitian) and requiring parts that would not be available on the island.

It may be easy to see the importance of these issues in the context of cookstoves; yet, similar dynamics are present throughout our society. How often do the engineers who design the distillation towers at the oil refinery recognize the communities that live downwind of these towers? Or the environmental lifecycle of the office chair? Before I read this article, I saw these concerns for “someone else”– the non-engineer. I did not know who this “person” was, but it was not me.

Now, I realize that I was a person in this “design,” that I had a responsibility to learn about the world and not just answer problems to make sure that a bridge did not collapse. I also realized that the education system has a responsibility to train students to address societal problems. If engineers are not taught about the social complexities they are situated in, and only are taught to use specific information needed to solve the problem given, they will continue to just do the work in front of them. We need complex thinkers, not cogs in a machine.

Personal Reflection

I am feeling confident about this post, and also a bit suspicious of my confidence. I got positive feedback from the first one, and that eased my worries a bit. I think this post in particular is well-written and gets to the heart of many issues. However, I have in the past thought that I was being coherent and grounded, but I wasn’t. I am pretty sure that is not happening here, but that fear is still present in me.

For a head’s up, I will be posting my story every Thursday. I have gotten a handful of people committed to contributing to the site (yay!). When the stories start coming in I will be posting those on Tuesdays.

Engineering Identity- Part 1 of Julia’s Engineering Journey

By Julia Thompson, Ph.D.

Excelling at math and sciences was embedded into my identity at a young age. On long car trips, my father would have me calculate the gas mileage and I would sit there plugging away until I figured it out.

Many people in our society believe that if you are good at math and science you are “left brained” and poor in reading, writing, and everything creative. In my life, this became a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts. I struggled with spelling and reading and, instead of getting a tutor, it was seen as part of my identity. My parents and teachers seemed to accept it and shrug it off. Inside, I felt incompetent in these areas.

Early in college, my abilities in math were challenged when I failed my first calculus test. As shown in self-efficacy research, being identified as good at math and getting that poor grade pushed me to study harder. I got a B in that course, and then pretty much got all A’s in community college from then on. Once I completed my pre-reqs, I transferred to UC Berkeley for chemical engineering. I knew I liked chemistry, and I was thinking I could do something with renewable energy. Like many young women and men, I had a desire to make the world a better place through science and engineering.

Being a good engineering student was my identity, and I did well with it. The first semester there, I got on the honor roll. Yet, slowly I found myself assimilating to the chemical engineering culture. My initial desire for renewable energy was not initially re-enforced within my department, and within a few months I found myself applying for internships in energy companies, specifically oil refineries. This was something that went against many of my values.

Luckily, I didn’t find an internship that summer, and decided to travel Europe instead. During that trip, I met many interesting people along the way. I started to reflect on who I was and how I expressed my life. Being an engineering student was so central to my identity, I barely had anything else. I was not exploring my other interests and I was using my engineering studies as an excuse.

Once I returned to the US, I decided to change that. I started taking judo, signed up for ceramics and I joined a research group focused on bio-fuels. My grades dropped, but it was worth it. I was still an engineer, but I was so much more. From that point on, my life started to unfold in new ways I could not fathom previously. In the following posts I will attempt to re-capture some of the stories and my discoveries. I hope you stay tuned!

Personal Reflections on this Post

I was discussing with my partner some of my concerns of this post, and she suggested that I include this thought process here- so here you go.

For my first posts to this blog, I decided to write my journey and how my worldview in engineering transformed in undergraduate. This first post in particular I feel nervous for putting out there. I my inner critic is having a field day, – “I am too caught up with something that happened 10 years ago,” “it sounds too much like a personal statement,” “the link to spirituality is not clear,” and “you really shouldn’t be sharing this.”

However, this topic is too important to me not to. There is another part of me that believes that my story will resonate with others, create a bit of comfort in other’s journey, provide me a sense of healing, and start a wider conversation about engineering identity (and not just within academic circles).

I have wanted to share this story publicly for some time, and I recognize that some people will pick it apart while others will connect to it. I am dedicated to the conversation, and so I put one foot in front of another and post.