From Rocket Science to Artificial Intelligence

By Ashley Brown

The Society of Women Engineers National Conference took place in Austin, TX, October 25-28, 2017. It was an amazing experience to make new friends, make new connections, and learn from female engineers with varying life and technical experiences.

I knew previously only a couple of the girls that were going from the University of Dayton, but everyone was super friendly and very helpful from teaching me how going through the airport works to being lunch buddies and having conversations about the various presentations we each attended.

The sessions that stuck out to me the most were on the topics of: how to obtain a leadership position while staying technical, a rocket scientist who ran for congress, and a panel discussing human intelligence versus artificial intelligence.

Leadership in Technology

The talk on leadership on the technical side of the company was important to me to attend because that is where I see myself in the future. I am interested in staying technical but still being able to move up in leadership positions. Some of the tips that were presented were things such as staying on top of available trainings and certifications and being up to date on industry standards and competitor’s standings.

NASA Rocket Scientist Leaving Mars for Politics

Tracy van Houten is a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab who ran for congress in her home state of California. What stood out to me in her talk, is her reasons for running for congress and all of minority groups she identifies with that are underrepresented in congress. Identities such as: working mother, engineer, under 40 years of age, and female. Her engineering statistics stated that for every lawyer in congress they represent about 2,000 other lawyers in the U.S. population. For every engineer in congress they represent 180,000 engineers in the U.S. population. This is also profound because a lawyer’s training teaches them to do best by their constituents whereas engineers are trained in problem solving, allowing them to come to conclusions that would compromise and produce better, and most likely faster, outcomes.

HI vs. AI: Will the Robots Win?

The human intelligence versus artificial intelligence panel provided four companies who discussed what artificial intelligence looks like in their company and how they use it in their products to help their consumers. After working at an automotive company this summer where the concept of self-driving cars was discussed at many events, it was interesting to see what artificial intelligence looked like in other products such as data collection for human health or proactive measures taken during manufacturing versus reactive measures.

Beyond the sessions, I had a really fantastic time getting to know the girls I came with while exploring the city of Austin. We were able to check out some live music and enjoy southern BBQ and sweet tea. It was also very enjoyable talking to women from all over the United States and across various industries to get their perspective on what they are passionate about in their day to day jobs and in their careers as engineers.
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