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What I Did This Summer: Became an Engineer

ExpandED Schools

This guest post is by Tiffany Zhang, a senior at Midwood High School in Brooklyn. 

ExpandED Options connects New York City high school students to field-based learning and real-world employment opportunities. After school and on weekends, students (age 16 and older) apprentice with sports, cultural and science organizations that teach skills such as how to lead engineering activities or how to teach art. With teacher oversight, students earn academic credit for real-world, out-of-school learning that ultimately leads to paid summer jobs. CrEST: Creativity in Engineering, Science, and Technology, one of our ExpandED Options programs, emphasizes hands-on, lab-based demonstrations, experiments and projects that offer important learning experiences related to circuitry, electronics, mechanical systems, physical computing, robotics and other STEM disciplines. CrEST was designed and is conducted by NYU Tandon School of Engineering's Center for K12 STEM Education, and the curriculum is adapted from the School's offerings in digital design, interactive devices and creative coding. 


When I first learned about CrEST during my science class at Midwood High School, I was instantly interested. But I’m extremely shy and don’t feel confident in presenting in front of people, so was nervous about the summer teaching component—the job I'd get after successfully completing the internship. At the time, I didn't know what I wanted to do when I grew older. I was so scared of making the wrong choices. As I was debating whether I should join, I was thinking about the benefits. I thought to myself, joining this program would help me build self-confidence and experience new things.

In addition to teaching middle schoolers, peer-to-peer teaching and learning was also a big feature of this summer's STEMNOW programming at NYU Tandon School of Engineering. ExpandED Options high school students, trained in the CrEST curriculum, shared their skills and knowledge with fellow NYC teens. Here, students in the Applied Research Innovations in Science and Engineering (ARISE) program take a CrEST workshop on electrical engineering and coding. Hear what they have to say about the experience. (Credit: NYU School of Engineering Center for K12 STEM Education)

I remember going to the CrEST open house—I was so amazed by all of the circuits on each table. I had no idea what they were, and all of it just seem so complicated. I felt unintelligent when we were asked if we knew how a circuit worked. Throughout my life, I was never really exposed to technology. I was always the last one to receive a device of some sort, and I always felt left out. 

So I was completely surprised that I was accepted to CrEST, because I never thought I’d be smart enough to get in. But every Saturday in the program, I was learning new things—and I can't explain how awesome the feeling was when I was learning and actually creating circuits! From ping sensor to transistors, I am still surprised that most inventions nowadays consist of these electrical components that I now understand.

During this summer when I got to teach new younger kids every week, I also got to learn new things about them. They were as excited about learning new things as I was when I first learned—I saw the smiles on their faces when they made an LED blink, and their jumps of joy when they got the correct answer on Kahoot! [a game-based learning platform]. I really enjoy working with kids to help them understand the material. In school, there are more kids in a classroom than there would be in one of our CrEST classrooms. So, since there were fewer kids in my CrEST classroom, they didn't have to feel shy or worry about embarrassing themselves over a question they’d ask in front of a big group. When they get to high school, I think CrEST kids might be interested in taking physics after chemistry.

You don't even have to want to be an engineer to benefit from all that you’ll learn in CrEST. From this program, I was able to build snap circuits and truly understand what the different lab materials were and what they did. I feel so happy that I now know what those materials are, because I have always felt like the one who never knew anything. From working with circuits, I really learned what current, voltage and resistance are— which is better than I would've done on my own in science class.

This experience has meant a lot to me, especially since my dad wanted me to go into the medical field. He thought that only men could have jobs in engineering, because he thought it requires a lot of physical effort and “hard” work. However, I am willing to work to my best to do something that I love, and I want to prove to not only my dad but to people around the world that gender does not matter. You just have to be determined to do the work and be up to the challenges that come with it. Women should be treated the same as men in the engineering field, because women are able to do the same hard work.

Being involved in CrEST has made me realize so many things, and I’ve benefited so much from it. From learning new things to getting real work experience to improving my social skills, I wish more people could be exposed to the things we did in the program like I was. I hope they realize how extremely beneficial it could be to anyone. CrEST makes you feel accepted—no matter who you are.

The CrEST Crew. The author, seated 2nd from right, encourages other high schoolers to stay curious and expand their STEM horizons.




ExpandED Options receives generous support from The Pinkerton Foundation. 




What a great blog! So great to see that Tiffany was courageous enough to give CrEST a try even though she was nervous about it - a great rewarding story! Thanks for sharing.


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