Engineers Week promotes recognition among parents, teachers, and students of the importance of a technical education and a high level of math, science, and technology literacy. The intent is to motivate youth to pursue engineering careers in order to provide a diverse and vigorous engineering workforce.
It is ironic that it falls on the week that most students in our area are on their “Winter Break” and not in school. Hopefully they are being inspired on vacation by some technological wonder or enrolled in technical program during their break. Better yet, maybe they are on visiting colleges and getting ready to make their decision to go into engineering!
I am a proud graduate of Alfred University with a B.S. in Ceramic Engineering. My emphasis was in glass, but today there is even more specialization where you can get a degree in Ceramic Engineering or a Glass Science Engineering.
What is a “Ceramic Engineer” and how did I know that is what I wanted to do?
By definition: Ceramic engineering is the science and technology of creating objects from inorganic, non-metallic materials. This is done either by the action of heat, or at lower temperatures using precipitation reactions from high-purity chemical solutions.
This includes not only traditional ceramic type materials, but also glass. Ceramics were some of the first engineered materials, starting with clay based pottery, but now play a key role in almost every facet of today’s technology.
Like most high school juniors, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was really good at math and science, and loved working with numbers. The person that put the bug in my ear about engineering was my Chemistry teacher. She was an extremely energetic and passionate woman that literally flew across the room demonstrating how molecules collided. One day she handed out a brochure for a summer engineering institute at Alfred University. It was a weeklong “camp” where you would be introduced to all different types of engineering.
Alfred was one of the best schools in the world for Ceramic Engineering, and my Dad had suggested I look at it, so I thought it would be a good thing to do. My parents dropped me off, and at the end of the first night I called them and said there is no way I am going to be a ceramic engineer, but I’ll stay the week and see what other types of engineering I like. Well by the time they picked me up on Friday I had decided that I did want to be a Ceramic Engineer and I applied for early decision to Alfred University!
That peek into the box at engineering was the best thing I could have done.
While at Alfred, I was a tour guide and on every tour, someone would ask “What is a Ceramic Engineer?” My response was that ceramics are everywhere. There are the traditional things you might think of like toilet bowls and floor tiles, but there are many things that you don’t realize. Glass, for instance, falls in the ceramic family.
Ceramics and Ceramic Engineering touch almost every industry in some way. Ceramics play pivotal roles in electronics, transportation, defense systems, aerospace, environmental, mining, refinery, food, chemical, packaging science, industrial and transmission electricity, guided lightwave transmission, architecture, and medicine; when you open it up to glass, the possibilities are endless. Think about all the things you do in a day that come from ceramics … from roadways to vehicles, computers to cell phones, health testing to implants, armor to guidance systems.
On the glass side there are the traditional items that come to mind like eyeglasses, drinking glasses, storage bottles, window glass, architectural glass, decorative objects, and jewelry. But think about the technological advances already realized, like windows that control light and heat, fiber optics for high-speed communication, and advances in medicine like bone-setting materials. The opportunities are endless when you are talking about Ceramics and Glass.
I have been fortunate to touch many different industries as they relate to glass and ceramics in my career. Glass has been my passion, what it yours?
There are many types of engineering out there, you need to find the one that is right for you. Whether you are a parent, teacher, relative, mentor, coach or friend to a young person with an aptitude for math and science, help to get them information on a career in Engineering. It is the best thing to fuel their technical curiosity. I can only imagine what the engineers of tomorrow will create.