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Engineers Week 2013: Celebrating Awesome with Student France Jackson

Robby Corrado February 13, 2013

Engineers Week is almost here, and in the spirit of celebrating awesome, we sat down with France Jackson, engineering student who led an Engineers Week Kickoff on her own campus.

France Jackson is currently pursuing a Master’s of Science degree in Industrial Engineering, with a concentration in Human Factors and Ergonomics at Clemson University, and she recently spearheaded the 2013 Engineers Week Countdown Kickoff Webcast, which was held on Clemson’s campus.

We sat down with France to see what inspired her to lead the Engineers Week charge, and why she thinks its awesome to be an engineer.

K-Exchange: What was that “A-ha” moment of when you knew you wanted to go into engineering?

France Jackson: Like most kids, I wanted to be so many things when I grew up. I can remember in the 3rd grade, I wanted to be a professional football player.

I have always been inquisitive and curious about how things worked. Growing up I was always interested in science and math. During the summers I went to difference camps where I got to experience science and engineering hands on and I feel in love with it. I can’t remember an exact “A-ha” moment, but I have known I wanted to be an engineer since the 6th grade.

K-Exchange: On your website, you have an extensive resume.  Which of the projects did you find the most enjoyable to work on? What made it the most memorable?

France Jackson: My favorite project thus far is actually the most recent addition to my resume and the one that I can speak the least openly about. This past summer I had the opportunity to spend 3 months in Hillsboro, OR working at the Intel Corp. I worked with 3 other engineering students and 1 MBA student on my summer project. I worked on automotive team conducting research developing use cases to drive future technology. I loved this project because I was able to apply many of the user centered design techniques that I learn in school to actual project. I was also able to learn knew techniques from usability professionals.

You’re almost done with your M.S. in Industrial Engineering with a focus on “human-centered computing.” What advancements/trends in this field are you excited to see getting more recognition and support from the public?

There are so many trends in the HCC community that are moving to the forefront. Some of these trends include: Brain-computer interfaces (BCI), Universal Accessibility, and the new frontier for advanced automobile technology. I am really excited about how far we can take it with automobiles but fashion is another passion of mine. I am starting to look at retail and where we can apply technology and user centered design ideas to the retail industry. On another note, my research lab at Clemson (http://hcclab.org/), led by Dr. Juan Gilbert does a lot research in accessibility. One of our primary projects is Prime III.

It is an accessible voting technology. Our system was recently used in Oregon for the presidential primary election. A few months ago President Obama issued a challenge to combat long voting lines such as what happened in Florida during the presidential election. My lab is using our Prime III voting system and creating the technology that we think will solve this problem. I am extremely excited to see what will happen with our upcoming research study that will test our technology and getting the support of not only the public but hopefully President Obama.

K-X: Are there any tips you can give to those that are about to begin their journey as an undergraduate engineering student?

FJ: There are a few things I would tell a new engineering student.

    1. Stay focused – anything worth having is worth working hard for.
    2. Its not as scary as they make it seem- engineering is tough work BUT it can be fun. There are lots of hands on projects and its really an opportunity to shape the world.
    3. Engineering isn’t for everyone – you may find that its not what you thought it was going to be, its ok to realize that you do not like. I always tell my students you have to love engineering to make it through the program. If you do not have a passion for it, I encourage you to find what you love.
    4. Give it a fair chance – the caveat to number 3 is that you have to give it a fair chance. Before you change your major talk to seniors and teachers, see what types of professions you can do with your degree that you may not have thought of. Before you give up on engineering all together, consider switching to a different type of engineering. You may not have found your niche yet.

K-X: How do you see the use of digital engineering tools, like Knovel, as an trend for the industrial engineering industry?

FJ: Being an engineering student is very time consuming. I can remember being a freshman and spending hours on general engineering homework. ANY tool or software that is designed to help me save time is a great thing to me. As a PhD student and researcher, I spend a lot of time looking up resources and various information. Although I do not have any experience with Knovel, it seems like a tool that would be very useful to me and I am really looking forward to learning more about how to use it to my advantage.

K-X: This year’s EWeek theme is “Celebrate Awesome.”  What does it mean for you?

FJ: I love this years theme. I think it’s really important to celebrate all the great things that engineers do and all the hard work that engineering students and profession engineers put in to their jobs. To me engineering is about changing the world, one great idea at time. Building a better tomorrow for those who can’t build it themselves. Engineers have an immense responsibility to always do our best work because we can not really afford to make mistakes. Being an engineer is incredibly awesome so I think we should celebrate it.

France Jackson her advisor, Dr. Juan E Gilbert, at the Human-Centered Computing Lab at Clemson.

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