It’s Engineers Week, and February 24, Girl Day, is dedicated to introducing girls and young women to engineering. For some, the interest in this field is pretty evident from an early age, while others need more information and inspiration to become engaged in exactly what it is that engineers do. Accudyn asked Kendal Clouse, Project Engineer, for some insight on her experiences.
Is it easy for you to connect some of your early experiences in school to the career you have now as a project engineer at Accudyn? What can you tell us about that?
School gave me the basic knowledge of plastics and injection molding to get started, but honestly I have learned way more through hands-on experience. I was lucky enough to have an internship at Accudyn during my time in college and I was able to work in multiple departments around the company. This well-rounded experience was extremely beneficial when I took on the role of project engineer. I learned how the plant functioned as a whole and why each individual department was so important. I truly believe it made me much better at my job!
We often hear about STEM careers (science, technology, engineering, math) but once in a while we do hear an “A” (for “arts”) getting put into that acronym (STEAM). How did some of your interest in the arts shape your focus on math and science? Do you still use those artistic sensibilities in your work?
Being interested in the arts was a good contrast to the focus on math and science—working both parts of your brain! Being a plastics engineer still requires creativity to solve some issues. Having an artistic side also helps me in my communication skills. For example, I am able to put together reports for customers that paint a picture and can clearly explain the issues at hand.
How important are hands-on experiences to developing an interest in science and engineering? What stands out from yours?
Hands-on experiences are extremely important. I knew I wanted to do some type of engineering, but without having the opportunity to visit a plastics lab, I don’t know if I would have made the decision to go into this field. During my internship here at Accudyn, I was hands-on since day 1. I was tearing apart and cleaning injection molds, loading material, measuring parts, and running presses. These hands-on experiences early on only made my interest in plastics continue to grow.
With a strong interest in math, you were able to discern the likelihood of an engineering career in your future. What led you to pursue plastics engineering in particular?
I knew I wanted to do engineering, but going into college I had no idea what type. I remember visiting a friend at Penn State Behrend where he showed me around the plastics lab. At the time, I thought it was the coolest thing ever, and I just wanted to get my hands on all the machines and technology in there! When you look around, almost everything has some type of plastic on it, and I thought: how awesome to be involved in making products that almost everyone uses at some point in their daily life!
As part of your schooling at Penn State Behrend, you completed an internship at Accudyn over the course of two summers. What do you feel was unique about that in preparing you for your career, one that ultimately kept you at Accudyn!
I was lucky enough to complete two internships at Accudyn. My first summer was spent on the manufacturing floor. I spent time in the tool room cleaning molds, with the material handlers cleaning equipment and prepping machines to run, with processors ensuring molds were running smoothly, starting up new jobs and answering alarms, and time in Quality measuring parts and learning how to read part prints. This year was extremely beneficial in understanding how the plant functioned because I really had no idea until I did this!
My second summer I worked in Engineering. I was able to use my knowledge from that first summer that I had been working on the floor to assist the project engineers with any miscellaneous tasks they needed help with. Then once I accepted full-time employment, I was able to hit the ground running since I had experience in almost every department. The entire experience really set me up for success!
Engineers Week designates “Girl Day”, (specifically, “Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day”), because women are still underrepresented in this field and the sciences in general. What has the experience been like in your career? Although not the company’s first, you are in fact the only female project engineer currently at Accudyn!
Through college, I was 1 of 5 girls in my class of approximately 75 people. In my professional career, I’m 1 of 6 current project engineers, so I guess I have always been used to it! My experiences have been great though. I have always been treated with respect and honestly don’t even think about being the only female engineer—I’m just an engineer! When I do think about it, it is pretty awesome though. Sometimes I am the one leading meetings or projects made up entirely of men!
Looking back at your own experience and with what you encounter in your daily work, what advice would you give to students who might have an interest in engineering, specifically those girls who need an introduction?
My advice would be to visit businesses or schools that have something that interests you! As I’ve iterated multiple times, I think hands-on is really the best type of experience! And specifically for females: don’t be afraid. Be confident and do what you are drawn to, even if it’s not “normal” or “typical” by someone else’s standards. Engineering is for everyone!
What skill do you think everyone should learn?
Communication, verbal as well as written, because being able to communicate clearly will help make sure your job goes smoothly!
What is a hidden talent or little-known fact about you?
A lot of people may actually already know this, but I’m a dancer! I’ve been in dance since I was 3 and did it for fun as well as competitively all the way until two years ago. I danced for a semi-pro basketball team in Erie (the now defunct Bayhawks) while working at Accudyn. Talk about a complete 180: engineer by day, dancer at night! I miss it!
There are so many multifaceted women working at Accudyn! With your dance background and enthusiasm for engineering, we might all become cheerleaders for this field and anyone, especially girls, interested in joining it by quoting you: engineering is for everyone! Thanks, Kendal!