How to engage girls in STEM is a hot topic these days. As a woman-owned and operated business; we feel it is important that we are part of the conversation. In honor of Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, I recently sat down with one of our engineers to discuss why she chose engineering and what suggestions she has for future engineers.
Nancy Epstein graduated from the University of MO-Rolla, now Missouri University of Science and Technology (S & T) in 2000 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. She has been part of the AIE team since 2015.
Thanks for sharing your knowledge and passion for engineering, Nancy!
- First, can you explain a little about what you do at AIE? When a developer or civil engineering firm is considering a building project, a sprinkler system is required. This system usually has water flow and pressure requirements. I work for a company that does the testing and calculations to determine if there will be sufficient water pressure at the site. If there is not sufficient water, the project will require a fire pump and/or water tank. Both items are very expensive and the developer will have to include those numbers in the project budget. Our first step is to schedule a test with the city water or fire department. Next, we do some research about the water lines around the site and determine where to test. I travel to the site and meet with our contact and conduct the test. When I return to the office, we do more research about the water system, then calculate and compile a report stating what water pressure and flow rate will be available at the site. That way, the final occupant of the building will have third party confirmation that they will have what they need for fire protection at the end of the project.
- What made you decide to go into engineering? When did you know you wanted to be an engineer? As a kid I liked finding out how things work and I was obsessed with cars. More practically, in high school English was not my thing. I think I knew I wanted to be an engineer as a ninth grader.
- What were your favorite classes in grade school and high school? I really liked science. I had great HS Physics and Chemistry teachers. Those were my favorites. Orchestra was another favorite and I loved to read books.
- What was the ratio of women to men in your engineering program? (Assuming there were more men than women, what was that experience like?) At University of Missouri at Rolla, there were five guys for every girl. I think the odds were a little worse in Mechanical Engineering. In one class, I was the only girl. That’s just the way it was. Generally, I wasn’t treated any differently at school. It was good preparation for industry. On the bright side, it was really easy to find a date.
- How many years have you worked in your field? I have worked in engineering for eighteen years, quality control, manufacturing, and fire protection.
- Can you describe your typical day and your favorite thing about your day? I’ll describe a typical week. I spend about one day a week traveling and testing, then I spend the remainder of the week in the office doing calculations and research and generating a report from the test results. I really enjoy traveling and testing outside. Many of our jobs are in Florida and Texas, and it’s nice to go someplace warm in the winter.
- What are some of the different jobs available in your field? Mechanical Engineering is super flexible. I’ve worked in Manufacturing, Quality, and Consulting. I’ve worked for firms that retrofit airplanes, make dishwashers, make sprinkler system components, and now analyze water system reliability for sprinkler systems.
- How would you rate your job on a scale of 1‐10 on the basis of fun? At least an 8, I like the travel and enjoy working on different projects every week. The challenge of solving problems and figuring out the answers to problems makes my day busy.
- Does your job seem exciting to you? My job is interesting. I’m a total Enginerd, but I can’t go as far as calling my job exciting. I do enjoy going to work every day.
- Do you have to travel much for your job? I travel lots but for short (1 night usually) trips.
- Are there many openings for your type of job now? Do you think it is a growing field? I think there are lots of consulting positions open. As technology becomes more complex and specific, there will be a shortage of qualified engineers. Engineering schools include co-ops where students work in their areas – it is a great way to earn work experience and money.
- How would you advise a future engineer to plan for her future? Go to Missouri University of Science and Technology (that is the new name for Rolla). I love my university, and the people there work to make sure you have skills that industry requires. Then they make the goal of graduating in Engineering attainable.
- What classes or courses should she take to prepare for this career? Start in high school by taking all the available math courses. Do not become discouraged if you receive a B grade instead of an A. Keep going. In college, the required courses take up most of your schedule. As far as electives, I’d suggest whatever interests you. I’d also suggest taking the PE (Professional Engineering Exam) as soon as possible when out of school if you plan on a consulting career.
- What are some other interesting jobs that might be related to yours? The current work in robotics as it applies to fire and water rescue is interesting.
- What job would you choose if you didn’t do what you do now? I don’t know. I really like my job now. I am sure it would be in problem solving or engineering.
- What is the most satisfying thing about your job? Finishing a job and sending in the report, especially when I can save the customer some money.