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November 30, 2009

I absolutely love machining. Despite the fact that I’m in an engineering design program, I’ve never completely warmed up to the design process. It always feels so unfinished at the end – if only there had been more time, more details could have been ironed out.

Machining, on the other hand, has been associated with a sense of accomplishment to me. There are so many variables to tweek that require practice – but it’s hard to not feel finished when you have a final product in your hand (as long as its not too far from perfect). Growing up, I never used tools very much. I never built anything. My sister and I would play games that mostly involved playing pretend or mixing together organic material we found in the yard to make “soup”. So I was really excited about the machine shop when I got to college. I joined the Human Powered Vehicle Team and learned MIG welding my first semester. When I was learning how to weld, the older student teaching me said that “women make great welders”. I liked that he told me that – it made me feel particularly qualified all of a sudden. Since then, I have spoken to other female welders who had heard the same story – perhaps its the smaller hands?

Now I work in the college machine shop – the second female student to be hired in its short (<8 year history). I mostly clean machines, clean up spaces, train other students on machines and do lots of work orders that primarily consist of using the water jet cutter or the laser cutter. I like it a lot – sometimes it’s boring and I sit around and chat with my boss but most of the time it’s entertaining and active and technical.

I feel like it’s really empowering to be able to build stuff. I like working with dangerous machines that require my full attention to ensure safety and maintain machining tolerances. It actually reminds me a lot of dance. I remember growing up and feeling like the only time that I was completely engrossed in a physical activity was in my dance recitals. In college, I stopped dancing and found that feeling with machining.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Janet permalink
    December 26, 2009 19:35

    Hey! I was the first… and depending if you count the work done on their website, there would be another as well.. But its cool 😉 Back in the day, I wasn’t heavily involved (never fit in that well with the bantering), and it was in the early days of shop setup so I assembled racks, carts, ordered stock, and made those stinkin safety signs that are still up, I think. Its definitely a hands-on visceral satisfaction, a sort of engineering instant gratification provided by machining that is difficult to find in most other engineering venues. Cheers and have fun!

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