RES.LL-004 | Spring 2022 | Non-Credit

LL EduCATE: Introduction to Engineering Concepts

Core STEM Fields

No matter what field of engineering or STEM you go into, there are some core skills that are helpful to develop.  

The first of these is, perhaps surprisingly, not technical—it’s personal. Interpersonal skills include the ability to work with people with respect and compassion, with an emphasis on communication. Talking with your fellow engineers or team is especially important because research is usually collaborative. Whether you’re conducting experiments to later publish a paper on or developing a prototype, you’ll be part of a team. The ability to clearly discuss your group goals as well as your personal progress on a project is very valuable. 

Communication is also key when you interact with customers to help them define their needs and problems, as well as for working across teams and with people possessing different technical and non-technical backgrounds. This is something you pick up over time as you work with different groups. Whenever you’re working in a group, it is good to make a note of what works well, what can be improved, and what you can do to improve it. 

Diversity is another element you should look for in your groups. While not a skill directly, having voices in the room with different backgrounds, skill sets, and perspectives leads to more thorough debate and a better-designed end product. 

There are also general skills that apply across the engineering subfields. 

  • Research skills – Knowing how to ask questions, what resources you have available (browsers, libraries, etc.) and how to search them. Having a go-getter, independent mindset goes a long way. 
  • Resilience – Experiments often have multiple cycles or iterations and are repeated based on your initial findings. Build your confidence and grit, whether it’s to show your results, act on them, or evolve your experiment. It’s also a helpful life skill. 
  • Programming – Computers are everywhere now. You probably use them for school, games, and spending time online with friends. In the same way, many of the traditionally mechanical things in our lives, like cars, household appliances, and watches, are now also computerized. Because of how common computers are in life and in science, the ability to program (or code) is very helpful, no matter which part of STEM you go into. Learning programming is easier now because of the many tutorials available. For somewhere to start, we recommend Python (Python Wiki Page for ProgrammersPython Like You Mean it.). 
  • Bench skills – Becoming comfortable with a lab environment and the tools of the trade is a good step if you’re interested in lab work. While some fields have specialized equipment, you can go to Maker spaces and start working with some of the more common tools. Many projects are available through sites like Make:. You can also find a local Maker space by looking up your community online or asking your local library or recreation center. 
  • Cross-domain expertise – Often you’ll find yourself working with people who have different specialties or knowledge than you do — and that’s a good thing. Being conversational in other applied engineering fields besides your own is very helpful. With practice, you can also share your knowledge with others in a way that’s easier to understand. Promoting professional development of your team in this way helps everyone.
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