Pre-engineering builds a new path

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Nestled in the breezeway of the 7000, the Pre-Engineering classrooms serve as a second home for aspiring engineers looking to spend their days learning how the machines that make up our world function. Whether they are soldering custom-designed clocks, operating a band saw or engaging with experts in the field, Pre-Engineering students graduate well-rounded in fundamental engineering skills they can apply to their future careers.

“I intend to major in electrical engineering, and I will probably do a minor in material science,” senior Junyi Xiu, one of the co-presidents of the Pre-Engineering Society, said. “Material science was actually a topic we learned in the second year class, Principles of Engineering, which made me more interested.”

Pre-Engineering students spend the majority of their first three years in the classroom or in the engineering labs on campus, gaining an understanding of not just the concepts but also the applications of engineering. “[Pre-Engineering] is really unique because you’re getting hands-on experience of applying what you learn. The whole point of engineering isn’t theory [or] memorization. It’s application,” Xiu said.

In senior year, however, things take a turn as the Pre-Engineering students embark on internships throughout the year. 

“[During internship] you visit various engineering firms to get a feel for what they do and actually see engineering work being done live in the real world,” senior Mariela Manion, another co-president of Pre-Engineering Society, said. The students engage in opportunities such as touring a Triton submarine facility or seeing a waste management company in action.

Outside of the classroom, meanwhile, Pre-Engineering track members participate in the Pre-Engineering Society, the largest engineering-focused organization on campus. The three co-presidents, senior Ava Compitiello, along with Manion and Xiu, work with advisor Mrs. Mohanalatha Pamajala to organize speaker events, fundraisers and instant challenges, where students get a prompt for an engineering challenge and must figure it out under time constraints.

“The members of the society work together to solve a problem while using basic materials. It helps to encourage teamwork which is very important in the engineering field,” Compitiello said about the challenges. 

In addition to the traditional meeting format, the Pre-Engineering presidents hope to improve engagement and develop new connections throughout the school and community. “We already have many events scheduled with an organization we work closely with, Lighthouse of Broward, that helps children and adults who are visually impaired,” Compitiello said. Xiu and Manion seconded the goal of expanding further, with ideas for school-wide activities on Pi Day and Engineering Week, which occur around Feb. 22.

As the only three girls in the senior level class of Pre-Engineering, the co-presidents are working to make the traditionally male-dominated field more accessible to all — Xiu and Compitiello, for example, also co-helm the Girls Excelling in Math and Science (GEMS) club which works to support girls interested in STEM fields. “The activities we do aren’t just fun, but [also] support the community,” Xiu said. “At the end of the day, engineering is about helping people… we want to make [girls] realize, even if they weren’t interested [before], that STEM might be fun.”

While the imposter syndrome may feel overwhelming at times, Manion’s best piece of advice is to “set aside those comparative feelings… just take the class for what it is, which is to learn, and you’ll be so much happier.”

With enough curiosity, innovation and willingness to learn with others, anyone — the presidents believe — can find a place in the Pre-Engineering Society.

Xiu shows off her custom-designed clock that she spent much of her junior year Digital Electronics class designing, soldering and troubleshooting. “I was inspired by horror movies. I designed the eye part based on how we always stare at the clock but it never stares back,” Xiu said. (Photo/Tyler Zhou)

Senior Ellaheh Gohari is entering her fourth (and sadly final) year on staff and third year as co-EIC of the Patriot Post. She loves learning new things and can often be found going down Wikipedia rabbit holes in search of random knowledge. Outside of room 25310, she serves as co-president to both the Girls Excelling in Math and Science club and the Science National Honor Society. A science-lover, she enjoys exploring the subject through research projects with UMiami, volunteer tutoring with OTTER and fact-checks with MediaWise. She hopes you enjoy your time reading the Patriot Post.