Clemson professors urge students to consider engineering careers
A Clemson University team went to North Charleston on Jan. 25 for the second event in a four-city campaign to urge the state’s middle- and high-school students to consider careers in engineering, a fast-growing field filled with high-paying jobs.
The professors, students and staff took their “Emagine” tour to the Lowcountry at a time when the sta
te’s economic future is becoming increasingly linked to whether it can educate enough engineers.
Engineers are critical to filling the needs of some of the state’s largest employers, such as Boeing, BMW, Duke Energy, Fluor, GE and Milliken. They will also help recruit new businesses that provide even more jobs.
Kayley Seawright, a senior from Anderson who is majoring in mechanical engineering, said she has no worries about finding a job when she graduates in May. She has begun to weigh options that range from technical sales to working for a consulting firm.
“Engineers at Clemson are a hot commodity,” said Seawright, who is undergraduate student body president.
The Clemson team’s goal was to shatter the misconception that engineering is boring, a field reserved for math-and-science brainiacs.
“You also need to be creative,” said Dr. Scott D. Schiff, the civil engineering professor who is organizing Emagine.
Professors led students through a series of challenges aimed at showing how engineering applies to the real world.
They designed a paddleboat and ran tests to see what they could do to make it go faster.
Students also learned about designing, building and programming robots.
Schiff also had students design a structurally efficient beam using nails and strips of foam insulation. The activity replicated the design of a wind-turbine tower, a theme inspired by the new Drive Train Test Facility at the Clemson University Restoration Institute in North Charleston.
“I hope the Emagine program gets students excited enough that they consider engineering and begin to prepare themselves for their academic and professional career,” Schiff said.
Seawright said she has found engineering anything but boring.
She has tested campus buildings to see how much air conditioning is lost through the walls and windows and then suggested improvements. Seawright said she also worked on playground equipment that would double as a water pump and could be used in areas that don’t have fresh water.
“It’s really neat to work on things you see every single day and that will make a difference in the world,” she said.
The middle- and high-school students also heard about internships, study-abroad options and campus life. Parents had an opportunity to learn about Clemson’s admission process.
Emagine is part of a broader outreach by Clemson to draw more students into the package of disciplines known as STEM– science, technology, engineering and math.
The earlier students begin aiming for an engineering career, the better. They need to start building technical abilities in math and science as early as middle school and certainly before senior year of high school, Schiff said.
Numbers released by Clemson’s College of Engineering and Science last month sho
wed that enrollment has grown nearly 54 percent since 2007 and stands at 7,167 students as of fall semester. The university as a whole grew 21.1 percent in the same period, reaching an enrollment of 21,303.
The average SAT score among the college’s incoming freshmen has increased from 1244 in 2002 to 1290 this year. A third of the college’s freshmen have the prestigious Palmetto Fellows scholarship, up from 22 percent in 2005.
The numbers’ release came on the heels of a Georgetown University study showing that the majors students choose have a big impact on future salaries.
Four of the study’s top 10 highest-earning majors in terms of median salary are offered by Clemson’s College of Engineering and Science. They are mathematics and computer science ($98,000), chemical engineering ($86,000), electrical engineering ($85,000) and mechanical engineering ($80,000).
The Emagine team visited Carver Middle School in Spartanburg on Feb. 18. It will travel to Florence and Darlington on Feb. 22 and Greenville on April 5.
As many as 240 students could attend each Emagine event.
For more information, go to clemson.edu/emagine.