Inquiring Minds: Q&A with Mechanical Engineering student Courtney Shaw
Hometown: Edmonds, Washington
Major: Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Francophone studies
Free time: I love to read, I love to bake, I do Krav Maga, which a martial art — my friend that I met in the dorms freshmen year started a club; and I like jigsaw puzzles, which is sort of why I wanted to be an engineer in the first place.
Campus Involvement: Women in Engineering and Science Club, Vice Chair of Engineering and Computer Science Council
Q: Why did you choose SPU?
A: It’s small enough for me. I looked at another university that was massive. SPU was a good fit. I really enjoy the engineering program; they do a really good job supporting you. They focus not just on getting good test scores, but on explaining your ideas, formatting your ideas in a way that makes sense to other people, and being able to write very well.
Q: What drew you to engineering?
A: Engineers tend to say, “I’m really good at science and math, and that’s why I’m an engineer.” But I think more of it is problem solving. I’ve always loved fixing things and solving problems. I like mysteries and jigsaw puzzles, and the idea that you can find a solution and overcome the problem.
I have loved working in a team setting — that has definitely prepared me for life as an engineer.
Q: What is the coursework like as an engineering student?
A: We do a lot of team projects and build things. We take the Senior Design Course, which is a yearlong capstone where we come up with a project and then build, test, and present our project in the spring. I have loved working in a team setting — that has definitely prepared me for life as an engineer.
Q: Do you get to do a lot of hands-on learning?
A: Definitely. I learned how to weld. I’ve worked with drill presses and lathes and all sorts of machines that I saw my grandfather working on when he was building things in his shop. To be able to do that is super empowering. I love being able to work with my hands.
Q: What are some of the projects that you have been able to be involved in?
A: I worked on the generators for wind turbines as part of a class. We had a team that designed and built blades, I built a generator, and we had an electrical team that was working on creating power from the turbine. We got to test them at Camp Casey. We also went to Blakely Island and did hydroelectric research.
Q: What kind of internship opportunities have you had?
A: We take an internship prep course and all engineering students complete an internship or equivalent project. I did one with the Alaska Center for Energy and Power. Our team of SPU students developed a plan for implementing new energy technologies and for how to tell if an energy project is applicable to your location. That experience opened my eyes the different ways that energy can be used to help people. I also did an internship with the Business Energy Management Program at Puget Sound Energy that was about energy efficiency for commercial businesses.
Q: Can you tell me about the Women in Engineering and Science Club you’re a part of?
A: It is about fostering women in the field getting to know each other across different years. Having mentors in other years is really helpful. We have events on different subjects, like Learning to Code, where the women in computer science taught us a little about coding, and a Networking for Introverts event that I went to, which was really cool.
Dr. Melani Plett [director of engineering and computer science programs] would get us together and we’d go to coffee or to the bakery on Nickerson and get pastries and talk.
Q: What other groups or things on campus are you a part of?
A: I’m also on the Engineering Computer Science Council. We help the faculty get feedback on the program.
Q: SPU offers a concentration in Appropriate and Sustainable Engineering. Can you tell me more about that?
A: It looks at how we use energy and how we can use our resources more efficiently. It looks at humanitarian efforts, developing countries, and alternative energy sources. A lot of SPU engineers want to work in missions, and are looking at doing missions in a way that helps communities build their own infrastructure and be self-sustainable. There’s a big focus on creating solutions that will live beyond your involvement.