Junior Anna Shields has had her sights set on engineering since she was twelve years old. Her childhood dream is now coming true as she studies mechanical engineering at Brigham Young University with an emphasis in robotics and biomechanics.
Ever since she first saw the robotic hands used in Star Wars, the Mesa Arizona native knew she wanted to go into prosthetics. Despite this focus, she’s come to love all aspects of engineering and is open to whatever the future holds.
As she got more into engineering, Shields fell in love with 3D printing. Model temples for her friends and a Mandalorian suit are just some of the creations that have come from her printers. The Mandalorian armor took three rolls of filament and Shields wore it to Comic-Con.
As she’s gone through the program, some of her favorite courses have been Dynamics and Physics 123 because of the practical applications and relevant subjects, but the class with the most impact for her was MeEn 231, a Global Leadership course.
“They were the kind of classes that explained things that you see that you never thought about before and you realize “Oh, that's so cool, I know why we have this now,” Shields said.
A section on inclusivity that included discussions about the implication of more female than male restrooms in the EB was significant for Shields. Her experience as a woman in a male-dominated major has been positive, but despite that, she noted that there have been a few times when she’s been in a class and is very aware that she’s one of three female and 50 male students.
“I remember my first engineering class I took in high school was taught by a guy, “ Shields shared. “The first few months I went through class and everything was normal, and then one day, the teacher mentioned something about getting women in STEM and that’s when I realized, ‘Oh my gosh, I'm the only girl in this class’, and I had never realized that before.”
Shields hopes to not only work on prosthetics, but to inspire other women through teaching engineering. She feels that having a female teacher (specifically at the high school level) will help influence future female engineers and help them feel less intimidated about entering the field.
“I think it would be really good to get other women in STEM because I realized a lot of women aren't attracted to mechanical engineering just because they tend to wanna be interested in different things,” Shields said. “But I do think the disparity between men and women in engineering might turn some of them away from it, and it really shouldn’t because it doesn’t make a huge difference.”
When she’s not in class, Anna works with risk management as the Environmental Safety Lab Technician, inspecting labs on campus, maintaining and disposing of chemical unknowns. But in just a couple weeks, she’ll be heading into a very different unknown. She will be starting an internship for an engineering company in Orem that works specifically with steel structures such as billboards.
“You learn a lot of valuable skills from engineering internships, and that's probably what I’m most excited for is getting actual engineering experience,” Shields shared.
Even in her hobbies Anna works to improve herself and the world; she loves to rock climb, and has been playing the cello for over 10 years. Whether in class, at work, or in her own time, Shields is working toward becoming an influential engineer.
“I think my definition of an influential engineer has changed over time,” Shields said. “Back when I was younger I thought it was about inventing something super cool that’s going to change the world. But I’ve realized that even if you just help out with a project making something that makes one person’s life a little better, that’s still influential.”