Before starting my undergraduate studies I was told that college is a place which will expand my boundaries and push me outside of my comfort zone. And that was definitely true in my case, as my university experience included living abroad for the first time, taking all of my classes in English, which is my second language, and majoring in Mechanical Engineering.
A woman’s place is in the (construction site of a solar-powered) house
I have indeed encountered many uncomfortable situations both in and out of the classroom. But these are the experiences that have developed my passion for building things that will forever guide my career path. I love technology and the feeling of developing something new is one of my favorite in the world. Whether it is on the screen, or in real life — being the creator is simply awesome! It could be scary to put yourself in various challenging environments, but I personally believe that the skills and satisfaction you get are worth it!
For example, in my senior year I was on the team building a full-size solar-powered house in the UAE as a part of the Solar Decathlon Middle East Competition. After countless sleepless nights in the Engineering Design studio on my campus, we spent the whole month on a hot construction site working 15-hour shifts.
My daily tasks ranged from cutting massive insulation panels to installing a solar water heater on the roof and building a wooden deck. That month turned me into a full-time builder: a hard hat was my main accessory and my outfit options varied between oversized construction pants and extremely oversized construction pants (they need to make these in smaller sizes by the way). It was definitely one of the most challenging times during my college years, and by the end of it I was exhausted mentally, physically and emotionally. But the feeling of pride knowing that I can now operate a forklift and every type of electric saw was so rewarding, that I don’t regret a single second that I spent burning under the hot UAE sun. “Hey mom, I built a house” — was one of the coolest things I got to say during my undergraduate period.
Needless to say, it wasn’t just the heat and physical fatigue that made the process challenging. Many things failed during construction, the team dynamics struggled during tough times, the motivation wasn’t always there and sometimes I just really missed my bed. Just like with any big project, you are on a roller coaster and can never predict the type of tasks you’ll have to take on. The prospect of a group of inexperienced undergrads building a solar house sounded very intimidating at first, and it didn’t get any easier until we had our first meal in that very house. I learned many lessons during this project, and one of them is: you HAVE TO get uncomfortable and learn on the spot to pursue an idea you believe in. Hands-on skills, experience and even self-confidence are all acquired, but you will never learn unless you make a decision to throw yourself into the unknown. Every day of mastering power tools increased the confidence in my skills and reinforced my passion for creating useful things that solve real problems.
And these problems can range from building solar-powered houses to solving the lack of female representation in tech. That is why I joined imagiLabs, which is on a mission to empower girls to pursue careers in tech. Striving to be a maker myself, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to include more girls in this creative process of building new products that shape the future. And because I fully understand the challenges of diving into a STEM field, I am very inspired to provide girls with the necessary tools to spark their passion.
I am excited to build the imagiCharm not only because it teaches programming, but primarily because I believe it will help increase girls’ confidence and inspire them to step forward. Because at some point girls may realise that the same for-loop logic they mastered while creating a pink heart on the imagiCharm is a first step to a complicated AI algorithm. And it’s not scary anymore.
I believe we all strive for creativity in our work and coding is a tool which should never become a barrier for self-expression and idea realization. I am excited to see the next generation of makers create the technologies of the future!ee the next generation of makers create the technologies of the future!
This article was written by Veronica, Mechanical Engineer at imagiLabs