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There&#;s a question a lot of first yeart engineering students ask; is this what I want?"

The hard work of year is done, the million questions that go into selecting a course answered, and you sit down at university in your first set of engineering subjects and some people think “what am I doing here?

I asked it many times while sitting in a dusty lecture theatre taking notes on differential equations, or memorizing the form of chemical compounds on pews so steep I fought vertigo.  I wondered,what connected these theoretical concepts to the reality of life as an engineer?

A family friend recently summed up her frustration with first year engineering as, “I have a whole subject on cement.”

There’s lots of reasons students choose to study engineering. Often it&#;s because everyone tells them they are good at maths and science, they like solving puzzles or have engineers in their family. My favourite is engineers change the world.

I am now lucky enough to work with EWB, an organisation dedicated to making the world a better place.  

Everyday, EWB sees engineers making a difference.

We see engineers refining a biodigesting toilet design that could provide sanitation and energy solutions for . million people in Cambodia, we see them auditing renewable energy system requirements that will provide electricity for people in a remote village in Nepal, or providing advice to ensure communities have safe drinking water, or engineering companies coming together to collectively solve some of the world’s greatest issues.

I stuck out my Chemical Engineering degree.  There were times I really enjoyed it, and times I didn’t.  But I am so glad I finished it, and I credit my volunteer involvement with EWB as showing me why I wanted to be a chemical engineer. 

My engineering study has given me a process oriented approach to solving problems, an edge in job applications, an interest in how things get from being an A to a C (and B in between), the ability to correct my husband’s chemical assumptions, and an eye for risk and safety.

If you are looking for engineering inspiration, seek out a club or non-profit organisation that you want to be a part of (EWB for example has chapters at many Australian Universities), find a mentor who inspires you, or chat to your lecturer about their current research. Chances are they are working on the cutting edge of engineering innovation.

Studying engineering can be more than turning up to your lectures, tutes and pracs.  Being involved with EWB provided the inspiration I needed to get through my theory based subjects and showed me that engineers can change the world.  And I wanted to be a part of that.