Many people leave Disney World dreaming of becoming a princess, but when I experienced Disney for the first time as a three-year-old, I left the parks with a different dream: to become an engineer. I was enamored by the rides and became obsessed with learning how everything—from the roller coasters to the teacups—fit together and worked.
While I knew I wanted to be an engineer, I didn’t know which type of engineer I wanted to be. Fortunately, my parents handled my interest in engineering in the same way they handled other extracurricular activities: by finding every opportunity for me to learn about and experience engineering. Over the next decade, I learned about engineering by interviewing current engineers, going to summer camps, and absorbing information online.
How to encourage students to pursue STEM careers
When I was 13, I read a paragraph-long description about industrial engineering and knew what I wanted to do with my life. Today, I’m a senior industrial engineering student at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, and I couldn’t be happier with the decision I made in my teens.