Engineer, STEM Careers

9/11 Reflections

Disclaimer: This article is based on my own thoughts and memories from September 11, 2001. The featured image of the flag was found on http://www.almanac.com.

Where were you on September 11, 2001?

I was in my high school homeroom and I remember that our principal came over the intercom system to announce that a plane had hit the World Trade Center Building in New York City. She asked us to offer prayers to all the victims.

I remember wondering – what is the World Trade Center Building and also how would a plane have hit the building in such a large city?

I continued to my first bell class – English Literature. The TV was on and we were all watching just completely stunned by the tremendous amount of black smoke pouring out of the building that had just been struck by a commercial airplane. I saw several emergency vehicles arriving to the scene and people waving outside the broken windows for help.

The second plane hitting the second tower. Image from Businessinsider.com .

Then I remember seeing a flying object coming towards the second tower – Was it an emergency aircraft? Was it a large bird? As it struck the second tower, I saw the aircraft wings and realized it was another commercial airplane. My heart sank into my chest. Whenever I think back on that moment, I still feel my heart sink into my chest. It was clear to me in that moment that these incidents were not an accident. I was in complete shock.

I remember seeing people running from the towers scared, more emergency crews arriving at the scene to try to save people and the worst by far for me were the images of innocent people jumping from the windows out of desperation and plummeting to their death. I couldn’t watch anymore. I put my head on my desk and started to cry and pray. I prayed for the victims and their families, the first responders, our countries leaders and I prayed for God to save our country from whoever was trying to attack and kill innocent Americans.

Those images and feelings from that day will never leave me. The emotions I felt are still so fresh and raw in my heart and mind just like it is for many of us that were alive on that day.

One thing that my engineering education helped me with (which I hope to pass on to my children), was knowing how to move forward through tragedy by problem solving. STEM education trained me to look at failures (or tragedies) from a technical and data driven perspective in order to prevent them from reoccurring. This training, I feel, has helped me think more clearly in emergency / survival mode situations.

As a country, we’ve learned and changed a lot since 9/11/2001. Someday, I will be able to share my experience from that day with my children and also help them understand how our country changed after that. I also want them to know and understand that many STEM professionals over the course of several years helped analyze what happened (i.e. building structural failures, emergency response plans, medical analysis and healthcare for survivors, etc.) to ensure that this same type of failure would never occur again.

I want my kids to know that good problem solvers and their knowledge in their STEM professions – engineers, scientists, architects, doctors, etc. – are extremely important and that in their lifetime they may witness an event similar to this one that requires several problem solvers to come together and work in teams to find answers and solve a large problem.

The National Construction Safety Team Act (NCST Act) was signed October 1, 2002 by President George W. Bush to mandate the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to determine the likely cause or causes of the three building failures that occurred at the World Trade Center buildings in New York City on that day. The final report was issued in September 2005. I recently realized that there are some groups that disagree and are requesting the investigation be reopened by the NIST, including Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth.

My heart, prayers and thoughts go out to all the victims, victims families, the remaining survivors and the first responders from that day. I know that the memories from that day are still fresh in their minds.

Please share your memories with me from September 11, 2001. I would love to hear them.

May we never forget. God bless America.

Animals, Art Crafting, Holiday, Lake MetroParks, Nature, STEM Careers, STEM Resources

Lake Metroparks STEM Programs for Children and Families

For those that live in Northeast Ohio, Lake County Ohio’s park system known as the Lake Metroparks has extensive STEM programs for children and families. They also have specific programs geared towards home school parents and children.

Our family has greatly enjoyed the convenient, educational and fun programs that the Lake Metroparks system provides – specifically, the young child story times / explorations through the parks as well as numerous programs that are provided by the FarmPark and Penitentiary Glen Reservation. We have learned a great deal about farming and agriculture as well as the natural habitats and animals / insects that live in Northeast Ohio.

During the story times, children listen to stories associated with a nature theme, make a craft, play games and (weather permitting) take a hike outside along the paths in the park with a guide. The last one we participated in was all about frogs and it was held at Penitentiary Glen Reservation. The educator that ran the program was absolutely wonderful with the children. She taught them about the lifecycle of a frog, they made crafts, sang ‘5 little speckled frogs’, went on a nature hike outside, went on a scavenger hunt to find their own (fake) frogs, and many other activities.

Some of our favorite family friendly activities at the Farmpark have been Working Dog Weekend, Sheep Sheering Weekend, Horse Fest, Halloween Hayrides and Christmas Country Lights. At Country Lights, children are able to build a wooden toy with an elf from Santa’s Workshop. It’s a truly magical experience but also gives young children the opportunity to use real tools, listen to instructions and take pride in creating a wonderful toy for themselves.

For more information on their available educational programs for teachers and schools, click here. For more information on their upcoming family friendly events, click here. For more information on upcoming programming and registration, view the latest Parks Plus! magazine here.

Have you participated in any of these programs? Which is your favorite? If not, what park systems or parks have you enjoyed the most that provide STEM educations?

Book Review, STEM Careers, STEM Resources

Reading STEM’s Learning: “Her STEM Career” and “How She Discovered Engineering” Book Reviews

DISCLAIMER: I am also an Amazon Associate and may earn from qualifying purchases made from the links in this post at no additional cost to you.  I was asked by the author, Diane Propsner, to review her books and so I received a FREE copy of Her STEM Career: Adventures of 51 Remarkable Women ( which I donated to a local school in my area) as well as a FREE proof copy of How She Discovered Engineering.

The author of the books Her STEM Career and How She Discovered Engineering, Diane Propsner, reached out and asked me to review her STEM books.  Both of her books were written for middle school girls to further their interest in the STEM careers.  She personally became interested in STEM careers in middle school.

Although they were written with that age group in mind, even older girls and women would be delighted with these books.  As someone in the 30+ club, I enjoyed them both so much!

Both books are interesting, engaging, educational, exciting and empowering.  Her STEM Career, in particular, incorporates a wonderful variety of STEM careers – such as careers in engineering, healthcare, research, business and software.  Each woman’s story is personable, impressive and the stories behind their successful career paths are commendable.   How She Discovered Engineering introduces eight additional female engineers and how they became interested in engineering as well as their career paths and where they are today. This book serves as a wonderful first mentor to the girl that may want to discover an engineering career path.

These books would be a wonderful addition to a school STEM library as a resource for students interested in STEM fields and teachers that are teaching STEM subjects.

Let me know what you think of these books after you check them out at momgineeringthefuture@gmail.com or on my social media accounts!

STEM Careers, STEM Resources

Meet Dr. Sunita Mathew, Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. To honor it, I was very fortunate to a interview Dr. Sunita Mathew who is a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist.

A Psychiatrist is a specialized physician within the medical field that diagnoses, prevents and treats mental illnesses. Dr. Mathew specializes in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, which generally focuses on children, adolescents and their families.

In our interview, Dr. Mathew provided some interesting insight into her career, career path and her thoughts on the stigmas that still exist surrounding mental health. See our interview below:

Q: How would you describe your medical specialty to a child?

A: I’m a “thinking” type of doctor. I help people who have problems with their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. 

Q: What field(s) of psychiatry do you specialize in? How would you briefly describe it to a child?  What kinds of conditions do you treat?

A: I specialize in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. I help kids who have difficulty controlling their emotions or behaviors. I commonly treat depression, anxiety, impulse control disorders, attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder and learning disorders.

Q: How would you describe a ‘mental illness’ ?

A: Mental illness can be an expression of a common emotion that becomes extreme or significant enough to impact or disrupt one’s quality of life. 

Q: How would you describe the differences between a psychologist and psychiatrist to a child? 

A: A psychologist is a trained professional that can diagnose various emotional and behavioral disorders and treat with specific targeted therapy. A psychiatrist is a trained medical doctor that can diagnose and treat mental illnesses with the option of prescribing medication interventions. The two fields often work together for the best outcomes. 

Q: How and why did you choose psychiatry as your chosen field?  Do you have a specific memory or event that happened in your life that helped you choose your career path? 

A: I started developing an interest in Psychology and how the human mind works in college. In medical school, I had my first exposure to Psychiatry with my required clinical rotations. I just happened by chance to be placed on a rotation that had a lot of exposure to Child and Adolescent Psychiatry along with Adult Psychiatry.  In addition to working with the pediatric population, I enjoyed working with the nurses and psychiatrists that chose to dedicate their careers to work with children.  Once I was exposed to this specialty, I tried to keep an open mind as I rotated in other specialties but I always came back to Child and Adolescent Psychiatry as my first choice. 

Q: Growing up, what were your favorite subject(s)? 

A: Math, Psychology, Sociology,  and Anthropology.

Q: What did you study in college and how / why did you choose it/them?  What made you decide to pursue medical school?

A: In college, I was pretty sure I wanted to go to medical school, so I took all the core pre-med course requirements like Chemistry, Physics and Biology. I majored in Psychology and Sociology because I found the subjects very interesting. Both Psychology and Psychiatry were careers that I had considered in college. I decided to pursue medical school because I felt that there were some disorders that could benefit from medication interventions and I wanted to have that option when treating. 

Q: Do you feel that your studies in college are helpful to you in your career now?  How or why? 

A: Yes. I feel that my varied studies gave me a unique perspective. My science background helps me approach a case with analytical and critical thinking and my background in psychology and sociology has given me perspective on human behavior. 

Q: When and how did you become interested in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM)? 

A: Around middle school is when I started getting interested in doing science experiments and lab reports. In high school, I really enjoyed competing in science fairs. 

Q: In your opinion, what are some of the most important attributes or characteristics that a psychiatrist must have to be successful? 

A: Being non-judgmental, open-minded, empathetic, patient, attentive, and good listening skills are all good attributes to have as a psychiatrist. Sometimes a lot can be said non verbally. 

Q: What is the most rewarding part of your career? 

A: When I see treatment significantly improve my patients’ lives. 

Q: What has been the most challenging part of your career?

A: Hearing some of the bad stuff children have gone through. I have met some children who have gone through some unimaginable circumstances in such a short period of their life. That’s hard to process and take home with you.

Q: What is one of your most fun, exciting or even embarrassing memories in your career? 

A: When the kids make me laugh! Sometimes finding humor in a stressful situation can make all the difference.

Q: What would your advice be to parents and educators to help their children build confidence and interest in the STEM?  

A: Don’t limit your kids if they have an interest, even if you think they might not be able to grasp it.  Give them the tools to grasp it. 

Q: What do you wish others knew about your profession that is commonly misunderstood?

A: I feel there is a great deal of people still out there that don’t know the difference between a Psychiatrist and a Psychologist or therapist. We all have important roles in mental health, but they are different. 

Image credit: www.nami.org

Because May is Mental Health Awareness Month, I asked Dr. Mathews some more specific questions regarding her opinions on some topics still surrounding mental health:

Q: What is the biggest stigma around mental health, that you wish would go away in society and what would be your response to it?  How can we get rid of this stigma? 

A: I feel that a big stigma that prevents people from getting help is the fear of being judged or treated differently.  I think when more and more people, particularly in the public eye, share their stories about mental illness it normalizes it and lessens the stigma. 

Q: How would you suggest parents explain “Mental Health” to their children? 

A: I usually tell my patients that there is mental health and physical health. Sometimes you need to treat your mental health just like you would if you had high blood pressure or diabetes or a broken leg. There is no shame in mental illness, it is not your fault or anything you did. 

Q: If someone reading this blog thinks that they, a friend or family member may be struggling with a mental illness, what should / can they do?  What should their first step be? 

A: Talking it over with their primary care physician can be a good first step. Also, calling their insurance’s behavior/mental health line might be helpful in navigating the system and figuring out where to start. If it’s an emergency where safety is an imminent concern then calling 911 or getting them to the nearest ER is where you need to go. 

Image credit: www.nami.org

Q: If you had to ‘prescribe’ one thing to society to help all of us with our mental health or thoughts around mental health, what would it be? 

A: Everybody is going through something at some point in their life, being kind and non-judgmental can go a long way in their recovery. 

Thank you so much to Dr. Mathew for your time and allowing me to interview you for my blog.

Thank you to one of my avid supporters and readers of my blog (you know who you are!) for helping me get in contact with Dr. Mathew. She is truly impressive.

I hope that you enjoyed this STEM career interview. If you have a specific profession in mind that you would like to learn more about! You can leave me a note here, on my social media pages or email me at momgineeringthefuture@gmail.com.

As with some of the other images in this post, the featured image at the top is credited to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Engineer, Great Lakes Science Center, Museums, STEM Careers, STEM Resources

The Vroom Exhibit at the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland Ohio is Tire-iffic!!!

The Great Lakes Science Center did it again – they created another outstanding, fun and educational exhibit for kids and adults alike to explain how automobiles are designed, manufactured and serviced. VROOM! A Car Adventure is excellent!

The entrance to Vroom! At the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland Ohio.

Our Favorites:

As we entered the ginormous space, my kids first ran towards the tall multi-track called Physics Playground. Children (and adults – yes, of course I had to try it out too) can race cars down several tracks with loops, turns and jumps! It’s very exciting and fast paced fun and entertainment like I’ve never seen before.

The Physics Playground

The second place my kids explored and LOVED was the Automotive Care Center where they could work on ‘Mom and Dad’s Car’. My daughter was wearing a long dress, but that didn’t stop her from diving in to work on the tires, muffler or re-fill the fluids. My youngest explored the fun tire holes surrounding this exhibit.

Other fun areas included Tots Garage and the Aerodynamics wall. There are two areas for designing and racing your own vehicle – one designed for toddlers called Tots Garage and another area with wooden pieces and tires for bigger kids and adults. At the aerodynamics wall, my children could visually see how air flows around various shaped objects. My oldest found it interesting that vehicle designers evaluate the aerodynamics of vehicles for fuel efficiency (so they don’t need as much gas).

You can also test your skills and speed against an arm robot, named Lenny, which is a duplicate used in the automotive factories. My children laughed so hard at the celebratory dance after each time the robot won!

The area that I personally enjoyed the most was The Future of Car Tech section. This area had an example of airless tires and the LiDar sensor that is used to help self-driving cars navigate.

LiDar Sensor Technology screen inside the new exhibit.

My Thoughts:

This exhibit helps visualize many aspects of car design and servicing. We easily spent 3 hours exploring this space and we could have spent even more time. It is designed for all ages of children and adults. There is so much more to this exhibit that I didn’t add to this post.

We left the exhibit with plenty of knowledge on vehicle design, technology and functionality. I wished that there would have been more on vehicle manufacturing. There’s scores of science and engineering at vehicle manufacturing and assembly plants – i.e. the science behind paint color and appearance alone is a whole science in itself. However, this exhibit did not disappoint us at all and we will recommend it to everyone that we know!

The most impressive part for me about this exhibit was that it was built in house by the Great Lakes Science Center – it is truly one of a kind. We loved it.

Vroom over to the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland Ohio and go check it out for yourself!!!

momgineeringthefuture@gmail.com
STEM Careers, STEM Resources

Meet Dr. Sean, Pediatric Anesthesiologist

Does your child say that they would like to be a doctor someday? The careers in the medical field are endless, as there are so many types of specialty fields. Recently, I interviewed a close friend, Dr. Sean, who is a Pediatric Anesthesiologist.

Pediatric Anesthesiologist, Dr. Sean

There are many types of physicians. Dr. Sean works in pediatrics as an anesthesiologist. A doctor who works in pediatrics, may see anyone that is age 21 or younger. They may also see patients with special needs beyond that age as well. They provide medical care for infants, children and adolescents. An anesthesiologist is a doctor that specializes in medicines that need to be administered to keep a patient comfortable during procedures that would likely cause intolerable pain.

Here’s a glimpse into Dr. Sean’s profession as a Pediatric Anesthesiologist:

Q: What kind of physician are you and how would you describe your profession?

A: I’m currently a pediatric anesthesiologist, as well as an attending on our acute pain and regional anesthesia service. I provide anesthesia care for pediatric patients undergoing procedures or surgeries in which they need to be asleep for. Ultimately my job is to give children the best naps of their lives.

Q: In your own words, how would you describe your job to a child?

A: My job is to keep you asleep, comfortable, and safe during your procedure. I’ll be watching you the entire time, while you nap. 

Q: Growing up, what was / were your favorite subject(s) and why?

A: My favorite subjects were always math and science because they came easy to me. Also, I found the information extremely interesting and was able to ask many questions in search of answers. 

Q: How and why did you choose to be a doctor and specifically, why did you choose to specialize in anesthesiology?  Do you have a specific memory or event that happened in your life that helped you choose your career path?

A: There was no single moment when I realized I wanted to be a doctor, it was a slow evolution over time with my interests and the idea of helping people. Ultimately I chose anesthesiology because I enjoyed the physiology and pharmacology aspects. Many think anesthesiologists do not like patient contact but I disagree. It’s extremely challenging to gain the trust of patients (and their parents), within minutes of meeting me. Patient’s do not get to choose me, like they do their surgeon. Therefore, I must work hard to make them comfortable.Q

Q: What did you study in college? Do you feel that your studies in college are helpful to you in your career now?  How or why?  Did you have a favorite class and why?

A: I received my bachelors of science in zoology from Miami University. At that time, Miami did not offer a basic biology degree, so this was the next best thing. Their rationale was it made you competitive for medical school because it was a “different” major. Afterwards, I attended medical school at the University of Cincinnati

Overall my studies helped me to get where I am today. All of the classes were valuable as they provided a foundation for medical school. My favorite classes were actually the humanities where I learned more about society and people. These classes continue to help me today when interacting with patients. 

Q: In your opinion, what are some of the most important attributes or characteristics that a doctor and / or more specifically an anesthesiologist, must have to be successful?

A: I think the most important attribute is the ability to listen. Medicine is challenging due to time constraints and production pressure. Ultimately, the patient doesn’t care where you went to medical school or trained, they care how compassionate you are when you are with them. 

Q: What is or has been the most rewarding part of your job?

A: Everyday, I enjoy being able to interact with children to calm their fears and to safely deliver them back to their parents when the operation is over. 


Q: What is or has been the most challenging part of your job?

A: In pediatrics I have two “customers”, the patient and their parents. Figuring out how to manage both groups expectations can be challenging. 

Q: What was the most fascinating part of your medical school experience? 

A: Working in the cadaver lab and actually being able to touch and learn about every part of the body. To know someone gave up their body for my learning is remarkable. 

Q: What is one of your most fun, exciting or even embarrassing memories in your profession that has happened to you?

A: My favorite part is being able to play at work on a daily basis just to make a child smile.

Q: What would be your advice to a child that has aspirations to become a doctor someday?

A: You will miss out on a lot of fun experiences your other friends will have, but ultimately it’s worth it. Work hard but still have fun along the way. 

Q: What would your advice be to parents and educators to encourage children that are interested in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) disciplines? 

A: A great doctor is always questioning things and ideas. Foster this in your children. 

Thank you so much to Dr. Sean for allowing me to interview him for my blog!

Readers, please let me know what you think of these STEM career interviews and if you have a specific profession in mind that you would like to learn more about! You can leave me a note here, on my social media pages or email me at momgineeringthefuture@gmail.com.

Engineer, STEM Careers, STEM Resources

STEM Careers: Chemical and Materials Engineer Gabi

This is a photo of Gabi at one of the Paint Shops!

Have you ever wondered what an engineer is or what they do?

Meet my friend and former co-worker, Gabi Patrick.  She is a Chemical and Materials Engineer and works as a New Material Technology Project Manager at Toyota Motor North America.  

I recently interviewed her for my blog. Here’s a glimpse into her engineering profession in the automotive industry.

Q: When and how did you become interested in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM)? Do you have a specific memory or event that happened in your life that helped you choose your career path?

A: I have this vivid memory of me asking my Mom about empty space (air). I kept asking my Mom: “Mom, what is this?” <while making circular motions with my hands in the bathroom>. She couldn’t understand what I meant. I think of that question often… and how far it has gotten me. 

Q: Growing up, what were your favorite subject(s)? 

A: I loved math, physics and chemistry. Math to me was like a puzzle to be solved. Physics was more like a hands on game, and chemistry was magic!

Q: In your own words, how would you describe engineering to a child?

A: Engineering is like a big puzzle with nuts, bolts, legos, rubber bands, and a pinch of pixie dust!

Q: What did you study in college and how / why did you choose it/them? 

A: Chemical Engineering & Materials Engineering

When I was in elementary school, my aunt who worked in the polymers industry brought me a bag of plastic pellets. I was fascinated by them, so I decided to follow chemicals the rest of my middle school and high school years. Finally, when it was time to decide a major, I decided on Chemical Engineering. Once I was deep in my college years, I took a class on materials (metals, ceramics and plastics) and decided to focus on materials for my graduate degree, specifically ceramic coatings.

Q: Are your college studies helpful to you in your career now?  How or why?

A: Absolutely. College studies are the backbone to my career and the understanding of my daily responsibilities.  Some days are more technical than others, some days we think about costs, other days we really think about efficiency, or productivity, but without understanding the science behind it, it would be really difficult to get my job done. 

Q: What roles / job titles have you had in the engineering profession and how would you describe them?

A: Storm water engineer: I analyzed how much rain we got and decided the best ways to avoid flooding around the city. Paint Process Engineer: I managed a very long process that coated a vehicle with a rust proof paint. Materials Engineer: I tested new paints to make sure they were the same color by changing how they were applied.  New Materials Technology Project Manager: I collaborate with designers, production engineers and suppliers on the material development before it goes on the vehicle. 

Q: In your opinion, what are some of the most important attributes or characteristics that an engineer must have to be successful?

A: Patience, haha… Focus, be a good listener, learn something new every single day, take constructive criticism, and have fun!

Q: What is the most rewarding part of your job?

A: I get to work with people who have one goal: make the best cars in the world. My job has taught me patience, perseverance, humility, and respect. 

Q: What has been the most challenging part of your career?

A: Learning to accept mistakes and acknowledging failures.  

Q: What is one of your most fun, exciting or even embarrassing memories in your career?

A: My most embarrassing moment, and funny, has been the day I broke a stress toy at work. I had just had a difficult conversation with a superior and became really upset. My coworker handed me a very special stress toy donkey and I broke it in half. Sorry Larry! I’ll buy you a new one. 

Q: What would your advice be to parents and educators to help their children build confidence and interest in the STEM?  

A: Make it fun. Expose kids to different sciences (biology, chemistry, physics, math, etc.). Use daily, living examples, because in the end, we engineers work on daily living problems. Teach them how to think and solve, instead of ‘copy and repeat’. Focus on project-based learning, ask them to research, go look and understand. 

Q: In conclusion, what else would you like to add for parents reading this?

A: Don’t force a child into liking something specific. Expose them at a young age to all subjects but teach them how to think and solve problems. This is essential for any career, life problem, and eventually success… and please, have fun at it!

If you would like to connect with Gabi, you can find her on LinkedIn under her full name, Gabriela Patrick.

Did you enjoy this interview? Did it give you a better understanding of engineering? Does it help you with teaching your child? Would you like to see more like it?

Let me know at momgineeringthefuture@gmail.com or commenting on my social media sites.