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STEM Careers: Design Engineer

Karen Edberg

Black Belt DFSS for GE Appliances in Louisville, Ky.

Graduate of the University of Louisville

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How did you become interested in engineering?

I enjoyed math and science all thru grade school and high school.  I was planning to go into physics, which I really enjoyed, when I graduated high school.  My physics teacher recommended engineering.  I’ve always been more of a hands on and application based person than a theory person.  She thought that engineering would suit me better than physics and she was correct.  Once in college, I started looking at the different engineering types.  Fall of my sophomore year I took thermodynamics and I was hooked on mechanical engineering.

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The most important thing for engineering is curiosity. Engineers need to understand how things  work so that they can make them better.

Tell us about your job and what it is you do for General Electric.

I design parts and develop cooking algorithms (energy delivery algorithms) for ranges, ovens, and microwaves.

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Why is it important for America’s future to get more students interested in engineering?

Engineers make things work. Without engineers we do not have cars, appliances, power plants, plumbing, buildings, smart phones, computers, bridges or highways, and many other items that we use every day.  We need more people to “catch the science bug” so that we can have a country capable of developing and sustaining innovative items that work.

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What is your ultimate goal as a design engineer?

To design a good product for a consumer to use.

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What would help get students more interested in engineering at a younger age?

Give them things to take apart and see how they work. The most important thing for engineering is curiosity. Engineers need to understand how things  work so that they can make them better. Creativity is also beneficial. Creativity helps engineers come up with new and different ways to apply existing principles. Allowing children to explore how things work and challenging them to use what they learn in creative ways would definitely help get them interested in engineering.

For example, the next time you change a light bulb, explain how it works and why it has to be screwed or plugged in. Or the next time you have to change the oil in a car, explain why that is important and what the engine and other system do to make the car run. Things like this help kids understand how things work and can get them interested.

The GE Women’s Network at GE Appliance Park does a “bring your child to work day” event every year. At this event we have middle school children do activities related to different types of engineering (electrical, chemical, mechanical, industrial, etc.) to let them see how interesting science and engineering can be. The kids always seem to really enjoy it and hopefully we inspire some of them to become engineers or at least pursue a science related degree.

Also there are many kids who see scientific fields as “hard” and requiring “too much work.” Engineering and science education is not an easy profession; it requires hard work for most people. Students have to study to major in science and math and some kids just don’t want to have to do the work. Parents and teachers need to show kids that the hard work is worthwhile. A key item in all of this is teacher and parent encouragement.

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