The First Time I Felt like a True Engineer

At one of the first lectures in my freshman orientation course, Introduction to Engineering, our professor asked if we considered ourselves engineers. While other students pondered this question, I knew my answer right away. Absolutely not. I was only a freshman and it was still my first semester, so how could I possibly be an engineer already? After this daunting start, our professor went on to explain the project we would be working on for the rest of the semester; a team challenge to create a human-centered design that would be presented to a panel of judges at the end of the semester. The first task for our group was to come up with an original and useful concept, which I thought was the most challenging. We began discussing grievances of college students, and textbook costs were the first idea to come up. After discussing for some time, we came up with TextLock. It’s an automated textbook locker system that would be installed on dorm floors, granting students access to rent textbooks as needed.

To tackle this idea, we split up into 3 groups within our team: coding, woodshop, and circuitry. We first established the circuitry, chose solenoids as our locking mechanism, and Raspberry Pi as the locker's computer. Then, we coded an interface that would accept Rutgers ID’s, verify that the student lived on the floor, and programmed the locker to open the desired textbook slot. While working with my group for 2 months, I had experienced effective and true collaboration, something I never experienced before. Everyone had a certain skill set and contributed to the team in their own, unique way. I was on the woodshop team and unexpectedly fell in love with working with my hands. I had so much fun building the locker and I didn’t mind heading over to the MakerSpace building on Livingston to work on our base. We ran into numerous errors that we worked around and fixed through deliberation. Our project was not perfect by any means, but after a lot of time and energy spent, we got it to work

By the end of the semester, we had to present our design to a panel of judges as if they were real-world investors. Although this was nerve-wracking, it pushed me out of my comfort zone and I was beyond grateful for the opportunity. Right then and there, while presenting our hard work, I felt, for the first time, like a true engineer. Since then, if anyone asks me if I consider myself an engineer, I tell them yes. Even though I still have so much left to learn, I have now embodied the spirit of an engineer and can’t wait to see where it takes me.

-Gabby BME ‘23