All posts by Livia Zien

Have you Hugged an Engineer Today?

How Engineering Created the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in Florida

Last week was National Engineer’s Week (Feb. 17-23) – the week was founded by the National Society of Professional Engineers in 1951 to “ensuring a diverse and well-educated future engineering workforce by increasing understanding of and interest in engineering and technology careers.”   Within the four original engineering disciplines, Civil, Mechanical, Electrical, and Chemical, the number fields have boomed over the past several decades. Popular specialties such as Environmental, Computer, Biomolecular, Process, and Optical engineering specialties often fall under one of the 4 original fields of studies.  Industrial, Aerospace, Mechatronics, Biomedical, Nuclear, and Software Engineering straddle multiple areas of expertise.

So, what do engineers do?  Look around you.  Engineers have a hand in virtually everything you use, see, hear, and enjoy. 

SPC students learning about engineering

Do you like your cellphone?  Not only did they design the circuitry inside, they developed the technology to send the signals between cell towers and to and from space.  And that screen… isn’t it amazing that you can just touch it and move things around with just a swipe of the finger? 

And if you’ve marveled at the splendor of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, thank an engineerEngineers are to thank for all bridges, for that matter (especially the ones that reduce our commute times in the Tampa Bay Area)! Have you flown anywhere?  Enjoy watching Space X launches?  Thank an engineer.  Our highways, railways … engineers.  Medical equipment?  Engineers.  Automobiles, solar panels, gaming?  Engineers.

Okay – of course these things couldn’t be accomplished by engineers alone, but still, they played a huge part of what we have today. 

And you would be surprised to find the number of engineers among us here at SPC.  In fact, maybe some of your professors were engineers too.  Check out the programs offered by our Manufacturing, and Building Arts departments, including Electronics Technology, Mechatronics, and Biomedical Engineering technology programs.  Exciting things happening in so many fields! 

So, here’s some food for thought:  If you’re someone who wonders about how things work, you have the makings of an engineer.  If you like when things do work, hug an engineer

(And one more thing, Star Trek fans … remember Scotty? He was an engineer. Pretty cool, huh?)

Aha! Stay Hungry (For knowledge)!

Aha! Stay Hungry for Knowledge!Learning is food for the brain.  I’ve often asked students to talk about their most  memorable “Aha!” moments, after a lot of hard work.  What was the task?  Why was it difficult for you?  Then, I ask them to remember that feeling, both emotionally and physically.  Did your heart start beating faster?  Did you feel a huge weight lifted off your shoulders?  Did you feel proud?

For some students, it was riding a bike for the first time.  Some students recounted getting their driver’s license.  Others felt the sense of accomplishment in athletics … making the winning basket in a nail-biting game, or hitting their first home run, or running their first 5k race.  Some said that factoring their first polynomial was their best “Aha!” experience.  (Ok, I made that one up.  But I really am waiting for a student to share their favorite factoring experience with me.)

I ask them this question because it’s a great feeling to have, and I wish we could all experience it more often.  But the opportunities are actually all around us, especially with learning.  Tackling a new topic can be scary, but when we master it, we feel we’re on top of the world!  Learn a new language.  Cook a new dish.  Try a new math problem.  And, maybe factor a polynomial from time to time.

So, what was your greatest “Aha!” moment?  And what will be your next?

From the other side of the desk …

One of the really cool things about my job (besides getting to do math), is watching friendships develop here at the Clearwater Learning Support Center.  At the beginning of each semester, I see students who come in for the first time, and at first they might look a little uncertain.  The student will wander over to my desk, sit down, and we’ll start working on some problems together.  And then …. another student overhears our conversation, and says, “Hey, I think we’re in the same class!”  Now I have two students at my desk working on similar problems, and oftentimes, their knowledge complements each other.  They find that they have more classes in common, and shared interests too.

The next time I see the two of them, they might come in and get a table near me, but start working on their own.  They still come to see me, but for the most part, they’ve been trying to figure out the problems without help.

Sometimes the group will grow to three or four, and by the time the semester is in full swing, study sessions are both work and fun.  Many of these friendships grow beyond the class, beyond the semester, and beyond their degrees.

Since we are a commuter school, I always tell my students that the Learning Support Center is a great place to meet people, while getting your homework done.

So … come in to the LSC, do some math, and make some friends!  (By the way, this applies to other subjects as well J)