Samantha Midili, a senior Mechanical Engineering major from Ocean City, NJ (Cape May County), and Bianca Jeremiah, a junior Mechanical Engineering major with minors in Physics and Music from Bridgewater, NJ (Somerset County), share their experiences as women in the Society of Automotive Engineers Club at Rowan University.
Samantha and Bianca are not just women in STEM: they are leaders and trailblazers in the engineering field.
Both are on the e-board of the Society of Automotive Engineers club on campus. Bianca describes the club as “an opportunity to not only do research and create designs but actually manufacture cars and bring those designs to life.”
She adds, “We get the opportunity to compete in an annual global competition. There are different areas of competition that your car can get judged on: the acceleration test, suspension test, maneuverability, endurance, and a business component that delves into the cost of building the car. This year, the competition is in Rochester NY, so we will have the opportunity to compete against other colleges in the area.”
Samantha, the leader of the Baja competition team, talks about her first experience when joining the club. “When I walked in, there was only me and one other girl in the room. It was intimidating and I felt out of place at first, but I stuck with it and I started driving cars. I am so glad I did because now I actually feel like I belong and that there’s a space for me here at Rowan. I can do something I love and feel empowered that I am one of few women that do it.”
Bianca had a similar experience. “I joined the club as a freshman because I knew other people in the program recommended it. I remember my first project was to build a trebuchet for a pumpkin-chucking competition. After that, I was hooked. I started working on cars and began learning about machining, problem-solving and the importance of working with a team. The club has taught me how to work in intense situations and how to learn/think on the spot.”
The Society of Automotive Engineers Club has given Samantha and Bianca the opportunity to learn in the classroom and then apply it. Samantha says, “Rowan is so unique because the program is so hands-on. In many other schools, you don’t get past conceptualizing a design or reading about it in a textbook. Here, you almost always get to create the design and make it come to life by manufacturing it.”
Bianca shares the same sentiment.
“Being a mechanical engineer means designing to manufacture. At Rowan, you get to go through the entire process of research, design, and implementation; just like in the industry. It is so interesting to get to execute every angle from start to finish and actually create something,” she says.
Although it may be difficult at times, both Samantha and Bianca are happy and proud to be leaders in a male-dominated industry. Samantha says, “My teammates respect me, look out for me, and have my back. We have a great sense of camaraderie, and we are always together. I really feel like we all come together as a team, regardless of our differences, because we just want to build a winning car.”
“I feel fortunate to be a part of a community where I feel accepted regardless of my identity,” Bianca says. “Sometimes I might be the only girl in my classes and that is overwhelming, but I always try and tell myself that if I made it here, I belong here. I want to be that inspiration for other women in the program, too. I want to know they are accepted and belong. Creating that space and opportunity for everyone is important to me.”
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