How I’ll probably be acting all week until we go to Paris.

I have been living in the United Kingdom for over a month now, but it feels like just yesterday I arrived in the dark. It was cold and rainy. The house we were dropped off at that was supposed to have our keys was not the right one so we ran around like maniacs lugging two heavy suitcases each behind us. But now, I can direct you to anything on campus and can navigate a good part of Swansea due to random bus routes. Has it been easy? No. There’s definitely a learning curve to this study abroad thing. It’s not just, “Oh my gosh! I’m in the United Kingdom, home of Stonehenge, Shakespeare and castles!” But has it been worth it? Yes, because I’ve seen things like castles, Big Ben, and next weekend I’ll finally see le Tour Eiffel. I’ve also met some really amazing, wonderful people.

So that’s awesome. I also went to the Doctor Who Experience this past weekend in Cardiff and explored Cardiff Bay more, so check out Facebook photos for Doctor Who and other shenaniganery because we explored a lot of beautiful places. We saw a lot of costume and set pieces for Doctor Who while also going on a mission of sorts. Cardiff Bay was freezing, but the Millennium Center and Wales National Assembly building are beautiful feats of architecture. And there was a building with a beautiful clock tower right on the water that I know my father would have enjoyed called the Pierhead.

Cool traveling things aside, the one thing I’ve noticed about study abroad lately is that’s given me a much deeper respect for other cultures and societies. The other day, a colleague sent me a very interesting article about the development of a chip that could be put into the human brain so that those who are blind would be able to see through some quite complicated biological, electrical and neurological means. My first thought like everyone else who just read this was, “That’s fantastic! I hope it gets implemented as soon as possible.” My second thought followed immediately. “Do blind people want to see?”

Let me explain myself. My sister and I have always enjoyed watching ABC Family television series together, even though they’re not necessarily high quality television. It was a wonderful bonding, sisterly activity growing up. One of the shows we still watch together, on the rare occasion where I’m actually in Ohio and the show is playing a new episode, is Switched at Birth. Until I started watching that show, I was unaware of the deaf community and their pride. I learned about this in a linguistics course (LING 250 Language in the USA at the University of Illinois with Dr. Terkourafi) I took freshman year to finish my require social sciences classes. Up until the 1980-1990s, the deaf were treated horribly in the American education system by forcing them to try to learn in classrooms of hearing children and forcing them to learn to speak. Now, they take pride in American Sign Language, which they actually think in, and the deaf culture. For this reason, even though cochlear implants to help deaf people hear exist, many deaf people choose to remain in what many hearing people would (unfortunately) consider a disabled state.

To deaf people, they are not less of a person nor are they weaker because they cannot hear. They are empowered. So I wonder if the blind feel empower by their lack of vision. They do not have a language to take pride in, but they do have other parts of their culture such as Braille. Here in the UK, I’ve become more aware of people who are not like me: Many do not share the same customs, values, language, etc. that I do, but that makes them more wonderful and interesting. The main club I have joined to meet people here is the Swansea University Catholic Society. Since the UK is not the most Catholic of countries, most of the Catholic society is composed of international students from the following countries: Hong Kong, Italy, Ireland, Israel, Nigeria, Ghana, the US of course and only one or two UK students. To top it off, our head priest is Philippino! This sometimes causes communication problems, but it’s also led to some of the best home cooked meals I’ve ever had (Italian food cooked by real Italians!) and interesting conversation that show me what daily life is like in others’ home countries.

The Swansea University Catholic Society after Ash Wednesday service at the university with the bishop of the diocese. Swansea University chaplain and priest of St. Benedict’s.

It has been a blessing to be here and get to know so many people.from such different places and backgrounds. I was a girl from a predominately Caucasian suburb of Toledo, Ohio before I went to Illinois where I could spend a ten minute bus ride listening to three different languages and was sometimes a minority in the dining hall. I thought that was different. However, there is a difference between diversity at Illinois and living here in the UK. At Illinois, I was exposed to multiculturalism, but in Wales, I’m completely immersed in it. Everyday I’m exposed to new experiences and new people whether it’s a small thing trying a full English breakfast (which is actually quite large) or watching a French tourist group pass me in Picadilly Circus. Life is truly amazing and I still have three more glorious months of this! Bring it on, world, bring it on!

Me and my fellow Girl Scout Counselors-In-Training at Camp Libbey in 2009. Four years later, I’m still in contact with half of these amazing young women.

 

Starting at age five, I became a Girl Scout. My mother insisted I join, though I did not understand it at the time. To this day, I am so thankful for the times she drove me home from school after troop meetings, helped me walk around the neighborhood selling Girl Scout cookies and sewed on the multitude of patches I earned on to my Brownie vest. My mom also allowed me to be parted from her and my family for a week every summer so that I could go to camp, where I became the person I am today. Summers spent at Camp Libbey will always be one of my favorite memories along with everyone who was a part of the experience.

 

Girl Scouts did more than teach me good marketing skills (always smile, act cute and show people pictures of Thin Mints) and how to build a fire (if you ever have trouble with making your flame catch, stale popcorn makes excellent kindling). Girl Scouts introduced me to my future career: engineering.

Dallas Girl Scouts participate in Cookie Box Creation competition, making a castle much more elaborate than my cookie box bridge was.

In seventh grade, my parents and I combed the camp brochures. I always participated in one sleepaway camp and one day camp during the summer. That summer was the first time Girls Scouts offered an engineering day camp in my area at the University of Toledo, a half hour drive from my house. I was a girl who participated in Mathcounts and owned a chemistry set, so my dad quickly convinced me that this camp would be perfect for me. He was right.

For a week, we explored different engineering labs and saw more research labs than I see during a week of my undergraduate studies. Counselors taught us the importance of having ideas and how to solve problems. During lunch, we played new board games like Alibi which focused on the cool use of logic. The last night, we slept over at the University of Toledo’s engineering auditorium just for fun. The best part of the project was building a bridge which could support our own weight out of Girl Scout [empty] cookie boxes. Being the little leader I was, I formed my group into teams who worked together to build the components of the bridge, put them together, and then beautify the bridge with paint and glitter.

I was awarded the title “Project Manager” off of the TV show The Apprentice by my counselors for all of my hard work and leadership.

This camp stimulated my interest in engineering and continues to fuel my passion for engineering. When I took a career aptitude test the next school year, it suggest chemical engineering. I chose chemical engineering because I felt empowered by the Girl Scout engineer course (and I remain a chemical engineer to this day). I knew that I could solve problems if I put my mind to it. I knew that engineering was where I belonged, no matter how male-dominated my advanced math and science classes became in high school. Girl Scouts helped me discover a world of engineering and I have never looked back since.

 

Note: To this day, Girl Scouts continue to encourage girls to be interested in math, science and engineering. They do research on how to encourage more girls to pursue STEM subjects. They sponsor FLL robotics teams. They host an Imagine Engineering website which explains different types of engineers. The Society of Women Engineers work with Girl Scouts to do workshops where female undergraduate engineers share their love for science with girls aged K-12. Please check it and help them pursue their mission by joiningvolunteering, partnering, donating, etc.

Welcome to my personal website! My name is Morgan Bakies and you can find out more about me under “Start.” Currently I’ve just finished transitioning old blog material from Engineering the Change to this blog. The posts on this blog will be separated into three different categories:

  • Engineering Education: Focused on changing how engineering is currently being taught based on observations, readings, and experiences. This section will start with material from my old blog being transferred here over the next few weeks as well as the addition of new material.
  • Woman in Engineering: Diary-like entries on my experiences as a female in the STEM fields in the hopes that I will be able to turn my writings into an ethnography by the end of my senior year of college.
  • Studying Abroad: This will be a slight continuation of my Engineer Abroad blog with beautiful pictures of travel, but it will be more focused on the benefits of international experiences for engineers.

I would like to give a huge thank you to Meagan Polluck for helping me host this website and launch it. Also, thank you to everyone who has supported me as I’ve slowly delved into the field of engineering education. It means so much to me.

This website is only about three days old, so it is far from perfect yet. I know I’ll constantly be tweaking it and changing it to make it more perfect, but for now, I think it’s ready to be seen. Thank you so much for visiting! Please subscribe, share, and comment. And have a wonderful day, lovely people!

Cheers,

Morgan

Hello from Wales! Life has been pretty busy lately in annoying way that involves actual work. But that’s probably a good thing because this past weekend in London felt like a vacation, so I needed to get back to reality. My name is Morgan Bakies and I spent a whole paid-for weekend in London seeing everything!
It’s nice see your scholarship tuition money actually being used in a fun, useful way. This past weekend was London Weekend for all of the Illini studying abroad in the UK. We came to London wearing bright orange to see the sights and meet other people who were having the experience of a lifetime living in the United Kingdom. It was a jam packed weekend of awesomeness!
After a three hour train ride and confusing walk to the hotel, we settled in quickly before leaving for dinner to have “Chicago style” pizza. The last pizza I had was with a number friends from Illinois at Pizzeria Due in Chicago, so it really could not compare to this:
But it was still really good! Afterwards, we traveled on the Tube (London’s subway system also known as London underground) to the West End theater district. There I had my first view of the London Eye lit up at night and downtown London. I also saw Spamalot which was a fun Monty Python musical with a mix of the best material from Monty Python and the Holy Grail and some funny other side plots. It was late by the time it let out, so we decided to travel back towards our hotel before it got too late. The night ended with a large group of us sitting a cozy pub, talking and laughing. In my opinion, that’s how every night in Britain should end.
Inside the West End theater.
The next morning, I got up a little early and decided to do some exploring. Our hotel was in Notting Hill, a place made famous by Julia Roberts’s movie. I did not find a book shop dedicated to travel, but I did find Hyde Park only a five minute walk from the hotel which was even better. So I strolled along the trees past the Princess Diana Memorial Playground which looked to be a massive jungle gym of things such as sailboats. I watched as couples strolled hand in hand through the morning mist while dogs chased sticks their owners threw. As I walked passed a pond full of swans, I noticed a large white statue. Approaching it, I discovered that the statue was Queen Victoria and behind her stood Kensington Palace. It was a complete and utter surprise. So I strolled through the Kensington Palace gardens before walking back to the hotel to start the itinerary for the day.
We took a two hour bus tour of the city to see everything. We drove past the other side of Hyde Park, through shopping areas, some of the most expensive apartments in London, and finally stopped for pictures at one of the most iconic places in London. Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and the London Eye are all practically sitting on top of each other in London. And what’s more? All of them are absolutely beautiful. It was amazing to see these famous structures and I can’t wait to go back and see more of them, especially Westminster Abbey. Our tour guide even took us to the inspiration for Diagon Alley after hearing we were Harry Potter fans!
Lunch was at a Turkish restaurant, which was interesting. It’s always fun to try new things! Afterwards, there was a photo scavenger hunt which had us running around London like lunatics. The best parts of the scavenger hunt were actually not scavenger hunt related. At Covent Gardens, we watched a very, very cute magician perform tricks. He included Lindsey in a card trick and let her keep the card she drew. He told her, “If you sleep with that under your pillow, I’ll turn up there tomorrow.” Everyone laughed at the joke but Lindsey. “I would not complain about that,” she said quietly. After this, we went into a candy shop that looked like it was Honeyduke’s out of Harry Potter. It was so cute, so of course Lindsey and I had to try some British candy. Just so you know, British toffee is really good, but impossible to eat because it’s like an oversized Milk Dud.
The evening ended with a cooking lesson where we made our own burgers, which was neat. They were delicious, of course. Some people, including Sam, went to catch another West End performance after dinner. Lindsey and I decided to continue exploring the city with some other friends, walking through Chinatown which was in the midst of the Chinese New Year celebration.
We took a path alongside the Thames and taking in the city. Eventually we crossed the river and walked back into the city. At one point, we rounded a corner and St. Paul’s Cathedral was all of sudden looming over us. It was breathtaking and I was completely in awe. And, becoming one with British culture, we also ended Saturday night in a pub drinking Spiced Apple and Rhubarb Cider together. We made friends with the women sitting next to us who gave advice on where to visit, while asking questions of us about place to go in the US. Also, at one point, Mumford and Sons came on over the speakers and that, my friends, was perfection.
Sunday was a much more unpleasant day because it rained almost all day to the point where all of us were soaked to the bone, despite raincoats and umbrellas. We went to the Tower of London in the morning and saw the Crown Jewels. It was amazing. The diamonds didn’t look real they were so unbelievable. It was so cool to be in a place I’d only read about in history books: where Anne Boleyn spent her last days on Earth, where the two princes were imprisoned by Richard III, and where (as my high school English teacher Ms. Drew likes to remind me) Charles Darnay was imprisoned for a short time in Tale of Two Cities. This ended the official London Weekend, but we fortunately had five more hours before departure.
The last few hours in London were spent running all over the city to see the last sights on our checklist. We traveled to King’s Cross and took a picture at a trolley crashing into the barrier at Platform 9 & 3/4. It was worth the line and satisfied our love for Harry Potter.
We then went onwards to find Buckingham Palace where we took some pictures, despite the rain. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to talk to any of the beefeaters and see if they could maintain their composure, but hopefully we’ll get to do that next time we go to London.
To end our stay in London, we went to an Italian restaurant in Notting Hill where we consumed warm delicious food. We talked about how wonderful the weekend had been and how much we couldn’t wait to come back. It was so wonderful and I feel so fortunate for having such an amazing weekend in such great company. Six hours on a Megabus later, we were back in Swansea, completely satisfied with the trip. I cannot wait to go back and climb to the top of St. Paul’s Cathedral, see Westminster Abbey, visit the British Museum, explore Hyde Park more, etc. But it’s okay that I didn’t get to see everything because that means I still have so many things to look forward to.
For the past few weeks, I’ve been staying up into the wee hours of Wednesday night so that I can be a part of the Big Beacon Twitter conversation that happens from 1 am to 2 am Greenwich mean time. It’s an hour where I’m able to share my thoughts on engineering education with enthusiasts from around the globe. I’m also usually the youngest person involved in these conversations which does feel awkward and cumbersome at times, but it gives me a unique perspective that I’m happy to share with others. One of the most interesting topics (to me) that came up this past week was the idea of geeks and nerds and what these words mean to different people.
I have been a self-diagnosed nerd since about sixth grade. I had all of your classic symptoms: watching Bill Nye the Science Guy the newest Lizzie McGuire (or whatever cable TV was popular at the time), reading books when most of my classmates were playing soccer and football, and spending all my after school time in academic pursuits such as Mathcounts and Power of the Pen. Trust me, I’m well aware that I was unusual kid and I remain a quirky bird for the most part. The beauty of the friendships I made in junior high school (many of which last to this day, despite living in different states and countries) was that my friends all had such a love for books and things like Pokemon that they proudly called themselves nerds and geeks.
As more and more attention is turned to the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields, enthusiasts debate the best method of attracting more students. There’s a major emphasis on changing the conversation to break down engineering concepts so that anyone regardless of age and profession can understand in a way best characterized by Dr. Hammack’s Engineer Guy videos. Another major wind of change is to eliminate words and phrases that might discourage student from pursuing STEM careers, showing that creativity is a much a part of engineering as math and science is, if not more so. One of the words that STEM education enthusiasts have been trying to eliminate is the word “nerd”.
However, there was so much backlash over this, that educators have decided to no longer take a stance on the word. Many seasoned educators and professionals do not fully understand this backlash. As an undergraduate with a foot in both worlds, I decided to explore the concept of nerds and geeks among my peers via social media and the Internet. Because I’m a nineteen year old and the Internet and social media are two things I know very, very, very well.
People of my age demographic (roughly between ages 15-25) have become open to the idea of nerds and geeks. I still remember a poster in my seventh grade science teacher’s classroom saying that in twenty years it wouldn’t matter what I looked like or what I wore. What would matter? What I had accomplished. My K-12 education encouraged me to be a geek or nerd because as a child I was told that geeks and nerds would be in charge of everyone else someday. Why? Because we, myself included, were the kids who worked hard and cared about learning, cared about our future. Nerds and geeks were not openly well-liked necessarily, but we banded together under the label and found a sense of pride. I don’t think nerds and geeks will be in charge everyone someday, but there will always be a need for us. In high school, the nerd pride remained as all of my best friends were people in my AP classes and band with me. We loved being nerds and geeks together.
An internet representation of what it means to be a nerd. But is this really true? Should it be true? I don’t think so.
When I asked this question on Facebook, I received a variety of answers. Some people simply don’t care, as long as they aren’t being picked on for it. Others like being called a nerd because it makes them feel smart. Others have more complicated views. A senior in chemical engineering made a good point that the words nerd and geek are often used in the wrong context because they are not well-defined. There are still slight negative connotations with being a nerd or a geek. One friend wrote that he preferred to be a “cool nerd” because he disliked the stereotype that nerds have poor social skills when he likes sports and music in addition to geeky interests like Doctor Who and Star Wars. The best summation of the nerd culture present in the current crop of high school and college student came from Samantha Fuchs, a sophomore at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: “I like being called a nerd because to me, the word indicates a culture of the pursuit of knowledge and understanding.”
When you look at the Internet,  it is clear that people of all ages have embraced nerd culture and are proud of it. One man used his computer skills and interest in creating a workout program for everyone who sits at work on their computers all day to make Nerd Fitness. There’s a website called Think Geek that sells everything from Star Trek bathrobes to Iron Man power bands. Hank and John Green of YouTube (known as the Vlogbrothers) call their followers “Nerdfighters”, a theme which has taken over Tumblr as well. Even Pinterest, the female social media phenomenon, has a Pinterest geek category.
Thus, there is no need to eliminate the words geek and nerd from our vocabularies. We simply must continue to change the meaning and allow the words to evolve. Geek and nerd should be positive words identifying people who love to garner knowledge for the good of the world, while also enjoying life and all the world has to offer. That’s it. I’ll see you next week. Or the week after, depending on future travel plans here in the UK. Until then, don’t forget to be awesome.
For further reading, I recommend BBC’s article Are ‘geek’ and ‘nerd’ now positive terms?. If you’re interested in joining us, Big Beacon Twitter conversations about engineering education occur on Wednesday night from 8 pm to 9 pm EST #BigBeacon and you can learn more about Twitter conversations here.
Hello friends! I hope everyone’s week is off to a good start. It’s been another week so it’s time for another blog post of more adventures. So buckle up your seat belts and get ready because this weekend I took an hour bus ride to Cardiff to explore the city!
Cardiff is the capital city of Wales as well as the newest European city. It also houses the Welsh rugby team which we realized instantly after stepping off the bus. We knew this because when we stepped off the bus there were already a ton of people in the street  at 9:30 in the morning and the crowd grew exponentially all morning. Currently, a number of European countries are playing rugby against each other through out Europe for a competition called the Six Nations. Wales played Ireland in Cardiff the day we were there so we were surrounded by daffodil hats (the flower of Wales) and Welsh flag kilts all day.
After stopping by the tourist info place, we decided to head off towards Cardiff Castle because everyone really wanted to explore a real castle (the Swansea Castle ruins don’t count!). On the way there, we took a detour into a church built in the fifteenth century. It’s crazy to see how old things are here. In America, I’ve visited plenty of historic sites because I find them fascinating, including the oldest settlement in America: Jamestown. First of all, there’s nothing really left of Jamestown on the island because nothing built was permanent. Secondly, this church was two hundred years older than Jamestown which settled in 1607. So I absolutely love the history here. And the church was really pretty!
Eventually we made it to the castle. Cardiff Castle was literally in the center of the city. It was just over a block directly north of the very modern (and very large) stadium where rugby was being played in that day and a couple blocks west of city hall. Outside the walls, we saw a Burger King at about the same time we saw the castle walls. But inside, it felt like another world. Large grounds with a keep, a moat, a clock tower and a castle with multiple spires spanned the area. There were even tunnels in the walls of castles which were used to protect inhabitants from bombings during WWII. It was both beautiful and awesome!
Inside the castle’s keep.
We toured the clock tower at the castle and it was amazing. Every room in it was decorated ornately in vibrant colors. I especially loved the summer smoking room because it was covered in beautiful patterns with so much history and literature references beyond anything I could ever imagine.
We walked out the castle to find the streets thick with people in scarves, skirts, capes, and other adornments bearing the Welsh flag (or the Irish flag, but we don’t talk about that). We were hungry but didn’t want to wait hours for food so we took a nice walk through a large park and stumbled upon a pub near a college campus that had a very homey feeling. There we had a great meal and got to watch rugby–a game which I still don’t really understand. But it was great and that’s what matters!
Emily, Carly, Paul and Miranda smiling at us from the top of the North Gate.
I think the best part of the whole trip was the group of people that we went with. Carly, Lindsey, Sam and I are the four female engineers from Illinois, but we’re all different people in our own amazing ways. We’ve also made friends with Paul and Miranda who are from Blackburn College in Illinois, a tiny school really close to St. Louis. They’re really nice people. Emily, a super nice Australian and Carly’s fellow civil engineer, also joined us. The bus ride back to Swansea flew by because we were talking to each other so much. I think the sign of a successful trip where everyone had fun is when everyone smiling the whole way home. Even though you left the city you were exploring, you’re happy because you’re with the people who made the trip amazing.
%d bloggers like this: