To celebrate Girl Day during Engineering Week 2021, we would like you to get to know Casey Meszaros, PE. Casey, a project manager at Manhard, serves as a role model to the next generation of girls in engineering with her exemplary work and her efforts in introducing STEM education to young children. Casey finds it encouraging to see that teachers are introducing learning opportunities and engineering as a profession at a younger age to girls and boys and she lends her support to that effort!
We sat down with Casey to learn more of her experiences in civil engineering and what she is doing to inspire the next generation:
What was your first experience with engineering?
I had a few impactful experiences with engineering throughout my life. As a kid, I would build sandcastles and make bridges from toothpicks and marshmallows with my mom. In college, I designed a concept for a huge dehumidifier that would suck water out of the air for a clean drinking source in rural areas. The design ended up being less efficient than I had hoped and ultimately wouldn’t be worth the cost, but learning those lessons is all part of the process.
At Manhard, the first design project that relied heavily on me was for a large national retailer in Ames, IA. I learned a lot on that job, and it’s still one I look back at for reference to this day.
Why did you decide to pursue civil engineering?
To be honest, I did not know what an engineer was until junior and senior year of high school. I remember I took one of those job diagnostic tests in high school and it said “engineer” and I thought, like a “train engineer”?
After doing a little research, I realized it was a designer or inventor that had expertise in math and science. I then found out there were environmental engineers. I have always been passionate about the environment whether it was trying to lower my carbon footprint or gardening outside with my family. From there, I made the logical decision to major in environmental engineering, which falls under civil engineering at the University of Illinois…it’s all history from there!
What are you doing to inspire, encourage or teach the next generation of female engineers?
I have visited my friend’s 2nd grade class to talk to her students regarding what civil engineering is. I presented a PowerPoint about the different types of civil engineers, the schooling it requires, and why it’s a great profession to be curious about (it turns out that 2nd graders find the mention of “wastewater” to be very funny). It’s always really inspiring to see these young kids learning about diverse job opportunities at such a young age. Of course, I always feel that could do more!
Recently I’ve had a lot of projects at Manhard for schools in different districts and several of them include a STEM component, whether it’s extra classrooms or computer labs. It’s encouraging to see that teachers are introducing learning opportunities and engineering as a profession at a younger age to girls and boys.
What advice would you give incoming engineers?
The best advice I could give incoming engineers is that the job is basically problem solving, one problem at a time. If you feel like you are getting stuck don’t get too frustrated because that’s you doing your job. Don’t forget to reach out and ask for help to learn from the experience for the next time you run into that problem.