We are honored to have Celeste Baine (Director of EESC, USA) on CE. As an engineer & author of several books on engineering as a career, Celeste has been promoting engineering as a career in USA for many years.
CE: Hello Celeste, you are the Director of Engineering Education Service Center. Tell us about your job.
Celeste: I wear many hats at the EESC. My least favorite hat is accounting. My favorite hat is the creative process of developing mew materials that will excite kids about engineering and their place in the world. I don't tell kids to become engineers as much as I tell them that an engineering education can take you any place that you want to go. My goal is to open the doors. Fortunately, engineering is an excellent launching pad to be whatever you want.
At the EESC, I also do a lot of writing and a lot of presentations about engineering careers. Recently, I've been producing videos and trying to develop materials to demystify engineering for middle and high school teachers.
CE: Why did you choose Engineering as a career?
Celeste: I always wanted to be an engineer; I just didn't think I was smart enough. I built elevators for my stuffed animals and was in trouble all the time for taking things apart. But, it wasn't until I was in high school and got my first car that I was really hooked. I had an old VW bug and loved to take it apart. Getting so dirty working on my car was what made me want to do the theoretical side of technical work. It also led me into electronics and computer repair because I didn’t get as dirty.
CE: Why did you get into writing?
Celeste: I got into writing because a technical writing professor encouraged me. By coincidence, at the same time, I was frustrated with how my engineering classes were taught and how it was so male dominated. Writing became by panacea or the band-aid to help me get through school. I wrote the books that I wished were available when I was trying to learn about engineering and going to school. As I developed my skill as a writer, I found that it was a rare talent in the engineering halls. Because it was rare, I polished it more.
CE: What is the point that you want to make through your books like “Is there an Engineer inside you”, “The Fantastical Engineer” & “High Tech Hot Shots”? Why do you say “Engineering will help in developing analytical and logical thought processes”?
Celeste: I write books because I want to help students see all of the possibilities and opportunities. I write books because I want to make the world a better place. We spend so much of our adult lives working that I felt compelled to help people make better choices. If the bulk of your time is spent at work and you are not happy, that’s a tragedy. But, it can be overcome. How can we expect students to make good career choices if they don't even know what's out there? My goal is to open the doors. Whether the student goes through the door or not is their choice. But choosing not to go through the door can be just as valuable.
CE: Tell us about the new book that you are working on.
Celeste: I thought you would never ask! My new book is called "The Musical Engineer" and it's a book about all the things that engineers and technical people do in the music industry. It's inspiring and fun. Ranging from the design and construction of stadium and studio sound systems, to the design and manufacture of iPods, electronic instruments, gaming sound, MIDI programming, and much more, it let’s you know what you can do as a music/audio engineer. This book presents possibilities you might not have expected. You will see what types of engineers stream live concerts on the Web and create your favorite music software. From the software engineers who design ring tones, to the electrical engineers who work on new microphones and speakers, to the computer engineers who create new thrill ride or animatronic sounds, the sound industry has a place for many types of engineers. You will learn what it takes to design music applications and get advice from engineers about how to succeed in the industry.
CE: Why do you want to promote engineering as a career?
Celeste: In engineering school, you learn how to solve problems. You also develop excellent analytical thinking skills. These skills help you in almost every aspect of life. My video, “Engineers Can Do Anything!” is a direct result of that feeling. An engineering degree is a ticket to freedom. You can be an engineer or follow a less travelled path and become a doctor, attorney, writer, teacher, CEO, Wall Street Tycoon, or get into politics. Three engineers were Presidents of the United States! It’s a powerful and rewarding degree.
CE: Biomedical engineering is not popular in most of the Asian countries. Tell us what is Biomedical engineering all about?
Celeste: The objective of biomedical engineering is to enhance health care by solving complex medical problems using engineering principles. Those who specialize in this field want to serve the public, work with health care professionals, and interact with living systems. This broad field allows a large choice of sub-specialties.
Women seem naturally drawn to biomedical engineering. Maybe it is its social utility or maybe it satisfies the caregiver instinct. Whatever the case, according to the American Society for Engineering Education, biomedical engineering leads all engineering disciplines in the percentage of degrees in the Unites States were awarded to women at all levels — bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral. Forty-five percent of all biomedical engineering degrees at the bachelor level in 2004 went to women.
CE: You have won several awards. Could you please brief us about those?
Celeste: My most recent award, The Norm Augustine Award, was given to me by National Academy of Engineering for outstanding accomplishments in motivating and inspiring students to pursue careers in engineering. I was credited for being an outstanding contributor to the nationwide efforts to increase engineering student enrolment. The award is presented annually to an engineer who has demonstrated the capacity for communicating the excitement and wonder of engineering. The award is conferred on those rare individuals who can speak with passion about engineering - its promise as well as its responsibility - so that the public may have a better understanding of engineering and a better appreciation for how engineers improve our quality of life. It was a great honor…especially because I was following in the footsteps of Neil Armstrong, a recipient of the same award.
The year before, I won the American Society for Engineering Education's Engineering Dean Council's Award for the Promotion of Engineering Education and Careers. I’d love to talk about it but the title is self-explanatory. In addition, I won the Boston Society of Civil Engineers Clemens Herschel award for publications that enable teachers to take on the task of demystifying the engineering profession for middle school teachers and I am also listed on the National Engineers Week Web site as one of 50 engineers you should meet!
CE: You've spoken at NASA, Purdue University, Princeton University, Hewlett Packard, and Lexmark about career in engineering. We would like to know more about it.
Celeste: I enjoy doing presentations because most people don't know how much you can do with an engineering degree and/or how it can allow you to follow your dreams. There is so much opportunity for engineers. There are also many engineers out there that are perfectly willing to share their stories or inventions. To help me convey what engineers do, I usually contact engineers at various companies to give me “show and tell” aids. I always imagine that the people going through my luggage at the airport wonder why anyone is travelling with slices of bowling balls, pieces of shoes, disassembled microphones, etc.
CE: We are very glad to have you on CE. What is your message for the Crazy Engineers?
Celeste: You are doing great work! I like your positive spin on engineering. Marketing the image of engineers being cool or crazy is a tall order but you’re pulling it off! Keep it up.
CE is thankful to Celeste for taking out time to talk to us. More information about Celeste's books can be found at www.engineeringedu.com