It all started in my kindergarten class when my teacher and my mom recognized my need for tutoring in my math class. I was a slow learner as a child but I always applied myself and tried my best. It was the dedication of both my teacher and my mom that set me straight and helped me in developing my mathematical skills and reinforced my desire to learn. As a result I gained an appreciation and a love of the math and sciences.
I was always interested in learning how things worked and l also enjoyed working through and completely understanding my math assignments with the help and encouragement of my mom. As I learned and progressed with mathematics I started to gain confidence and actually enjoyed learning and looked forward to the challenges of the assignments. My dad was a very dedicated ironworker and he shared many stories of his experiences working in construction and he showed me many pictures through the years working on the high iron. As a result I had a desire to learn about bridge building and the construction of highways, roadways, tunnels, ball parks, buildings, homes, automobiles, rockets and electronic devices.
For a child growing up in the 1960's I was influenced a great deal by the space program and I found it very exciting watching coverage of the Gemini and Apollo space missions. I was just a baby when President John F. Kennedy made his famous speech about landing a man on the moon's surface before the end of the decade. Great strides had been made from that day onward evidenced by the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo space programs. I was too young for both the Mercury and Gemini programs but I have pretty vivid memories of the Apollo space program. I remember the tragedy of the Apollo I launch pad fire occurring during a simulation that claimed the lives of 3 astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee in January 1967. This was a very sad start to the program but NASA was determined to move on and accomplish what president John F. Kennedy had envisioned and expressed so eloquently in his speech.
The Apollo 11 mission was the one that stands out most in my mind because that was when we saw on July 20, 1969 Neil Armstrong take his first steps on the moon's lunar surface and say the famous words, "That's one small step for man and one giant leap for mankind."
As a kid I was impressed with NASA and the astronauts training program and the educational backgrounds of all the astronauts. Most of them had studied engineering, mathematics, physics and chemistry in college and all of them were extremely well disciplined as a result of their military experience in the service of their country. They also were very dedicated to their training regiment upon acceptance into NASA's astronaut program.
I thought mission control was an amazing grouping of engineers, scientists and some of the best minds in the country and world. When Apollo 13 had encountered difficulties that put the lives of the crew members in danger in their return mission home it was the dedicated and joint effort of mission control to help simulate the potential problems and come up with solutions so they could properly advise the astronauts in their safe return home. That after-all is what an engineer is trained to do.
Engineering is all about precision, technological innovation, problem solving and finding solutions. It is a very challenging curriculum in school and demands a great deal of focus, concentration and dedication. Some students are naturally inclined in learning the principals and theories and others have to really apply themselves and study all the time. I fell into this category as a student where I had to apply myself and I worked hard at it and was determined to do my best. My favorite subject throughout my studies in school was mathematics which is a powerful and very interesting course of study. The whole basis for engineering is the study of math and science principals.
I am inclined to think that engineers have a different mindset in that they are real problem solvers and like to understand and evaluate the inner workings of something and make the appropriate decisions that require a great deal of analysis based on scientific and mathematical theories. I have always found that engineers who study fatigue, stress failure or the aftermath of a plane crash and piece the evidence together to find a viable explanation whether it be aircraft parts scattered at crash sites or a part of a bridge that collapsed due to fatigue and stress failure truly incredible. They use what they learn in a classroom and apply it to the outside world and the situations that require their expertise and knowledge.
After every airline crash it is a mandatory practice to gather the pieces of the aircraft, the black box and any other relevant evidence and painstakingly reconstruct the airliner in a hanger as best they can with what they recover to determine the reason or potential reason for the crash. Somethings you just don't learn in a textbook as their is no substitute then the real thing.
In the automotive industry their are all sorts of testing for driver and passenger safety and simulated collisions with varying speeds are always being performed to make safer cars to ensure the continued safety of drivers and their passengers. Engineers are always looking to design sleek cars that are fuel efficient and safe. These are the criteria they establish in the design stage of an automobile.
When I drive near an airport with my son and we see large aircraft passing over us it is really quite amazing to see. I always point this out to my son enthusiastically and remind him how truly incredible it is to see such large planes flying and remind him that they were all designed by engineers.
There are many fields of study I would suggest to young students and one in particular would be engineering. Within engineering there are so many specialties to consider. The main fields or endeavors that are engineering related are:
Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Computer and Software Engineering, Civil Engineering, Industrial Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Automotive Engineering, Aerospace Engineering, Metallurgical Engineering, Agricultural Engineering, Ocean and Environmental Engineering, Mining and Materials Engineering and Biomedical Engineering.
All students are required to take a core of engineering, mathematical and science related courses in their first two years of study with a core of English, arts and humanities as well that typically include:
Calculus I, II and III (Differential, Integral, Multi-variable), Linear Algebra; Physics (Heat and Sound, Electricity and Magnetism, Principals of Modern Physics; Chemistry I (Inorganic), Chemistry II (Inorganic); Statics and Strength of Materials; Engineering Dynamics; Engineering Circuit Analysis I & II; Engineering Thermodynamics; Computer Science I & II; English Literature, English Composition; Micro Economics, Macro Economics; Principals of Accounting I & II and Engineering Electives.
An Engineering curriculum is a well balanced program that includes Math, Science,Technical and the Arts and Sciences. It is a challenging course of study and a very interesting and exciting endeavor and the student has the flexibility of studying at a 2 year college and transferring to a 4 year institution.
There are many fine institutions for Engineering studies and the most prestigious would likely be the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. My preference is Virginia Tech having studied there and enjoying my time as an undergraduate engineering transfer student.
Raising a son with asperger's I find my son has amazing aptitude and has a love of math and science which I think is wonderful. I will always encourage him to learn and challenge himself and to continue his interest in the math and sciences. I also believe that many asperger kids gravitate to the math and sciences and eventually continue their love of it by pursuing engineering as a field of interest. It is well documented that many engineers display common patterns and traits associated with asperger's and many diagnosed individuals on the autistic spectrum are engineers, mathematicians, scientists, writers and teachers by professional choice.
As I think back to my days as a student of engineering and the challenges and accomplishments I look back with great fondness and joy and wonder how that time has seemingly passed me by so quickly. We all should enjoy our years as college students as those days define us in the success we seek and the job we perform. I will always have a love for engineering and hope that we find happiness and joy in all we do. I learned from the best, my parents and my teachers.
When we are students learning we try to focus on subjects that interest us and provide a challenge while we are evolving and learning in pursuit of developing our skills and our mindset. We all have the capability of doing great things and when we find what we love and we truly desire it and apply ourselves with the dedication and effort we find from within. This will help shape us and make us better and show others that we too are special and have the passion and drive to learn, accomplish and make our contribution. As an engineering student and a college student we learn and are exposed to many experiences and we share our vision with others and take pride in who we are while learning from others who have achieved great success and can teach it to us as young students who have dreams, goals and hope for making it and doing something they enjoy. Sometimes that spark is developed as a curious child innocently wanting to understand how something works. That is truly a story worth sharing with others because we then feel we can also inspire and teach something of significant importance in our own way and I choose to do it with my writing and shared enthusiasm as a student, professional and now a writer with vision and the love of sharing and relating my own personal experiences. If I can touch one person with my experiences and wisdom then I will have done something right. My mission as a father, who is transgender (Male to Female) is to guide my autistic son and teach him to find his passion, explore, believe in himself and accept others no matter their differences. We all have a purpose and a need to share. I know this.