Amy Devine

Amy Devine

Title
Senior Engineer
Organization
QuickFlex, Inc.
Location
Montgomery, IL, United States
Amy Devine
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Education
B.S. in Computer Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Minor in Mathematics
  • I am willing to be contacted by educators for possible speaking engagements in schools or in after school programs or summer camps.
  • I am willing to serve as a sponsor or coach for an engineering club or team.
  • I am willing to serve as science fair judge or other temporary volunteer at a local school.
  • I am willing to be interviewed by interested students via email.
Answers by Ms Amy Devine

Hi Kuong. The short answer is: yes, you can still be a good engineer even if you don't "understand physics". The degree to which an engineer uses physics varies depending upon the type of engineering and career. For example, if you are a civil engineer and design bridges, then you will need to understand stresses and forces. If you are a computer scientist and write Java programs, you will probably not actively use physics during your daily work.  

However, I am sure that you understand physics at some level even if you do not realize it. Do you know why things fall (gravity)? Do you know how we get electricity (electrons)? Do you know why moving objects stop (friction)? Understanding how the world around you works is part of the excitement of being an engineer; we are often asked to take a theoretical model and make it work in reality. If you end up in a research position, you will have to be able to work in the physical world and that means physics. Oftentimes, teams will be established with complimentary skill sets so that if you are not a physics guru, you can turn to someone who is. 

I would strongly encourage you to keep working to increase your knowledge about physics. For example, read blogs, watch youTube videos, and read books such as "physics for dummies" or "There are no Electrons: Electronics for Earthlings" by Kenn Amdhal. These are fun reads to help increase your high-level understanding of physics concepts.

Hello Kris, Does the school that you were accepted to offer courses in engineering or the sciences? If so, you could try to take a class in that while pursuing your original degree. That would allow you to test the waters with engineering. If after taking that class, you decide engineering is for you, you could look to transfer and hopefully have fulfilled some of your general requirements along the way. If you'd like to be economical about the situation, you could always try to apply for an internship or job in your field of interest during your year off between high school and college. However, with the job market being what it is, you might have difficulty finding a technical job. You could look to participate in a shadow an engineer program where you are able to follow engineers around. In addition to finding some job experience, I would use the gap year to take courses that are focused on engineering and the sciences. Community colleges are a great place to start with as you are able to take a variety of courses for less money than at a 4 year university. But, some 4 year universities allow for a student at large status where you can enroll in a university course without being a degree seeking student. These courses can usually be rolled over to a degree once you are accepted. If you are set on taking a year off to look at another university, I would definitely recommend trying to talk to as many engineers as possible. If you are unsure about the type of engineering you would like to pursue, I would recommend looking online to find the local chapters of engineering organizations and attending a meeting to talk to their members about their experiences. For example, you could look for the local chapter of the Association of Computing Machinery (www.acm.org), Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (www.ieee.org), American Society of Mechanical Engineers (www.asme.org). Look at your gap year as a fact-finding mission. Engineers have to seek out facts every day. Consider this opportunity as one engineering experience. And don't forget to include your discoveries in your applications to another college. Regards, Amy