During the time I've spent in the engineering program, I have had the opportunity to meet multiple industry professionals who shared their experiences in the workplace. I also had the chance to go on field trips to various places to further enchance my knowledge of real life engineering applications.

Guest Speakers

The speaker that influenced me the most was Maynard Holliday, the senior technical advisor to the secretary of defense. A specific project he talked about was him and his team dealing with the radiation created by the explosion of a plant in Chernobyl in 1986. What fascinated me the most were his descriptions of his team attempting to solve the problem and the amount of attempts it took to finally find the solution. His team had to find a solution to nuclear radiation, that was not just deadly but most importantly a problem that humanity has never faced before until that point. They had no experience working with radiation, no past mistakes to learn from, they were practically blindfolded. Yet, through teamwork and determination and plenty of failed attempts they finally managed to create a robot with a camera resistant to the radiation to create an image of the inside of the plant, and that knowledge helped isolate and begin the repairs of the plant. The speaker really managed to show how tough the job of an engineer can be, especially if attempting something new and unexplored, as well as the importance of not giving up because there's always a solution.

Jason Yosinski was another speaker I learned a lot from. He talked about AI which is a field I was always interested in. He presented a video of two AI having a "conversation", as well as a live demonstration of image recognition software. It was fascinating to see the process going on in the background as the image was being recognized. However, he also showed us how little we really know about AI and how easy it is to fool the image recognition software. Overall, it was fun to listen to someone who is an expert in the fields of AI and machine learning delve deeper into what actually happens as such processes are working versus just seeing the outcome.

Besides technical skills, I also had a chance to listen to speakers who chose to focus on skills other than someone's physical or intellectual abilities. Namely, Donald James, previously an administrator for NASA and an author of "Manners Will Take You Where Brains and Money Won't". As you can guess, he emphasized how important personality and manners are in any field, and that no matter how good you are at something, no one will want to work with someone who doesn't have manners. He taught me that teamwork is a vital part of any engineering job, and without proper manners and attitude, nothing will ever work out.

Another speaker who didn't tackle engineering topics directly was Ganesh Datta. He gave a presentation about how engineers and entrepreneurs should come up with problems that need to be solved and how to properly pitch those solutions to get investors. I found that interesting because those things aren't always what people think about. We're taught to solve problems we are given, but rarely have to come up with a worthy problem to solve from scratch and go one step further and not just make the solution, but convince others why it's effective and deserving of time and money. Some questions like "What is the customer's pain today?" or "How do they currently solve the problem?" are great questions to ask to step on the path of figuring out a solution.

Demonstration of Jason Yosinski's conversation between two AI Maynard Holliday with a group of engineers
Donald James presenting about manners in our school A slide about problem solving presented by Ganesh Datta

Field Trips

A field trip I took that I thought was a great educational experience was to the Patriots Jet Team hangar. The main takeaway from that field trip was the importance of precision in engineering, which was demonstrated with examples of aerospace engineering. It's absolutely crucial for planes to be perfectly balanced, because any imbalance will cause the plane to crash. Precision is even more important for space travel. To send a ship from Earth to Mars, the engineers must account for the rotation of the Earth and Mars around the Mars, as well as the rotation of Mars around its axis, the speed of the ship, the trajectory created from leaving the atmosphere of the Earth and many more things. Missing the launch angle by even one degree will escalate into a massive problem when the journey is millions of miles. The ship flying at a slightly different speed may cause it to land on a different part of Mars or even miss it due to the rotational speed. It really shows how important it is for engineers to be accurate and check their calculations multiple times because those errors always end up escalating out of control.

I participated in the UC Berkeley EECS Day where I learned about Berkeley's engineering programs with a focus on CS and electrical engineering. The reason this was memorable was because it was interesting to find out how many research and career opportunities there are even for students who are still in college. We were also told about the history of Berkeley's engineering graduates like Steve Wozniac, the co-founder of Apple, and the fact that Berkeley had 11 Turing Laureate alumni. It was a fun experience to learn more about what students can accomplish and work on while in college before working in the field themselves.

The Livermore Aviation Tour was a useful experience because I had a chance to learn from professionals with years of experience about the details of plane construction and flight. There were a lot of details about engineering planes so that they fly as smoothly as possible that I haven't considered before. Getting to see a live video of a pilot operating a plane and explaining the process was memorable and encouraged me to learn more about aviation as it's a relevant and complex field.

I attended a virtual field trip to Amazon, where the speaker talked about various details of Amazon's infrastructure and Amazon Web Services (AWS). As someone focused on computer science, it was fascinating toxx see when the speaker showed us all the background processes and elements that affect the platform. Many things seem simple on the outside, but have thousands of lines of code responsible for making it work. AWS, which provides servers and storage to users, is a very relevant platform that is used by over a million people worldwide, so learning about it more from someone who helped develop it was useful insight.

Real plane from the Patriot Jet Team field trip Speaker demonstrating AWS during the Amazon virtual field trip
UC Berkeley Robotics Room Design of a plane from the Livermore Aviation Tour

Mentor Program

I had a unique experience of spending a year being mentored by Jim Berry, director at Robot Garden with years of experience in computer hardware, electronics, and software. I learned a lot about the fields and jobs from the insight of someone who has had practical, real world experience. Throughout our meetings, I learned the value of flexibility. Engineering is a vast field and many parts of it are interconnected, meaning it's both fun and practical to explore many various aspects of it instead of just focusing on a specialization early on. Besides that, I got feedback on my portfolio, resume, and got to practice my interview skills in a one on one setting. Jim was a fabulous mentor who gave me a lot of practical knowledge that inspired me and gave me a path to follow in my career.