Making a 'tremendous impact'
MatSE senior Sara Pfeil pens a blog about her experience with the Engineering Ambassadors program, which brings public awareness to the diversity of disciplines and people that engineering encompasses.
Written by Sara Pfeil
My name is Sara, and I am a senior majoring in materials science and engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
I was first introduced to the Engineering Ambassadors (EA) program through a course I took my freshman year called ENG 110: Communicating and Presenting in Engineering. The course was taught by the advisors to the EA program, Jenny Amos and Joan Brown, and it covered techniques for giving excellent technical presentations to a variety of audiences.
I learned about the EA program through the advisors and current EAs who assisted with the course. What drew me to the program was their moto: “changing the conversation on what it means to be an engineer.”
The goal of the program is to bring public awareness to the diversity of disciplines and people that engineering encompasses and challenge the notion that engineers are poor communicators. This message resonated with me, and I joined the program as an active member in the spring semester of my freshman year. I have since been involved with the EA program for seven semesters, and I am currently serving as president of the organization for the 2022-23 school year.
Being part of the Engineering Ambassadors program has had a tremendous impact on my life as an engineering student. My favorite part of being in the program has been the numerous opportunities to do K-12 outreach at schools within the Urbana-Champaign community.
One of my favorite classroom visit experiences was an after-school coding and electronics club EA started at Judah Christian School in Champaign. EA partnered with an educational technology company called pi-top, which donated raspberry pi — a series of small single-board computers — and robotics kits to EA to help the promotion of teaching basic computer science skills. With these materials, I helped develop a curriculum for fifth- and sixth-grade students to learn about coding in Python and electronics.
What I loved about doing these visits was seeing the students engage with the concepts and collaborate with their peers to solve problems. I left every session totally amazed with how quickly the students were able to pick up new computer science concepts and apply them to different problems.
I highly recommend all MatSE students consider joining the Engineering Ambassadors program. The organization consists of students of all engineering majors, so it is a great place to connect with engineering students outside of your major. Everyone in the organization is incredibly welcoming and has a passion for challenging conventional ideas about who engineers are.
Professionally, EA is also a great place to develop your public speaking skills. All EAs are trained in the ENG 110 course prior to
becoming active members, and our weekly meetings often focus on further developing these skills. The public speaking aspect of the organization has personally been the most beneficial part that I will take away into my future career.
The skills I’ve learned in EA have enabled me to deliver technical presentations confidently and effectively to a wide variety of audiences. Whether I’m giving a talk to a class of middle school students on an outreach visit or giving a work presentation, these are skills that are essential to my career as an engineer.
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This story was published May 10, 2023.