SME Speaks: A Freshman's First-Year Journey
By Jesse Paschall
2011 SME Education Foundation
Family Scholarship Winner
Member Since 2000
At North Carolina State University, I have quickly learned how to deal with situations that will be beneficial for the rest of my life. While much of my learning has been school based, my first year of college has essentially been about learning how to navigate college and life on my own. Living 850 miles from home, I have had to learn how to solve many of my own problems. For example, I learned how to switch roommates, change classes, find tutors, and generally how to live on my own and be independent.
During this first year, I found myself taking some classes I really enjoyed and many I didn’t enjoy. For much of the first two years, engineering students are required to take general education classes, which no one really seems to enjoy. Chemistry is one of these classes that almost everyone at NC State has to take. So far, it’s been my least-favorite class ever.
Unexpectedly, I really liked my economics professor—he was one of the best teachers I’ve ever had. From the very beginning of class right up until the last day, he made economics understandable and enjoyable. One day in class he was teaching us about inflation, and out of the blue, he raised up his hands in a dinosaur-like fashion and yelled "RAAAAWR!! I AM THE INFLATION MONSTER!" As you can imagine, this sent all 400 people in the class into peals of laughter. I have never seen someone have as much fun with a subject they were teaching, which is what made economics one of my favorite classes so far.
In high school, I did not have to study very hard to do well in my classes. I quickly realized that college is very, very different. At the beginning of the year, I just tried to put up with all of the noise in my suite and power through my assignments. One morning before class, I decided to work at the library, and found that my production was greatly increased. I now go to the library very often, for almost every big assignment. I can concentrate without all of the distractions of my own room and suite. I’ve realized writing papers and completing projects are much easier when I can focus on the assignment and nothing else. The library at NC State has become my go-to destination for getting my work done.
"Introduction to Engineering" was also one of the classes that I enjoyed. Because the majority of students were freshmen in their first semester of college, the class was basically like an intro to college class. The professor was very helpful in introducing us to the college lifestyle and guiding us in our first-year decisions. When we immersed ourselves into the actual engineering material, the class became even more enjoyable. We were assigned multiple projects, which were all completed in class. One project in particular really stuck out as being the highlight of the semester. Our assignment was to design and build a structure that could keep an ice cube from melting when located in a box under a heat lamp. My engineering team did a really good job of protecting the ice cube from the heat from conduction, convection, and radiation, and our ice cube did not melt at all after 20 minutes under the lamp. By performing small, hour-long projects, we were introduced to different types of engineering and some of the various problems engineers face in real life—this made me even more excited about my future as an engineer. Another assignment was to make a Rube Goldberg machine. My group had a lot of good ideas, but somehow we had a hard time incorporating all of them together. Finally, we decided to use the best idea from each person and try to include each into our project. In this instance, I think we all learned many valuable life lessons, which was perhaps one of the main reasons the project was assigned in the first place.
From difficult roommates to difficult classes, my first year has been quite an experience. I have learned a lot in the first two semesters of college at NC State. Besides using this knowledge for the remainder of my college career, I believe many of the things I have learned will be valuable for the rest of my life. Thanks again to the Society of Manufacturing Engineers and the SME Education Foundation for helping to make my dream of studying engineering at NC State possible. ME
This article was first published in the May 2012 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine. Click here for PDF.