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Getting Hands-On Experience to Turn My Dreams to Real Life

By Sandra Chance posted 02-06-2020 11:23 AM


As a 20-year-old female civil engineering student at Santa Rosa Junior College, I never would have thought that I’d get the opportunities I’ve had so early in my career.

Having the opportunity to be involved in many ongoing real-world projects with Santa Rosa Junior College, NASA, Keysight Technologies and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will help me engineer in the future.

Being a part of these projects has taught me many new things, given me the opportunity to put my knowledge to work and given me the opportunity to ask questions about what I’ve been learning in college so I can better relate it to my career and further grasp the concept.

The first project I was able to go on and be a part of was a water retention basin project for Santa Rosa Junior College. The purpose of this project was to replace the water culverts with water basins because the water flow was backing up and causing sewage and drainage problems. This project taught me a lot about how civil engineers work in the field, in meetings, and how they make decisions wisely.

Throughout this project the engineers wanted me to do the calculations, which I did. These calculations were fairly straightforward for me, but I did require minor help to understand what I was finding exactly because I had never done anything like this before.

It was through that hands-on project that I got my job at Keysight Technologies working as an R&D technical specialist. While going to school and working for Keysight, I then received an opportunity to go to NASA and compete in a rover engineering competition.

To get into the competition, I had to take a five-week online course through NASA and write an 11-page paper on how I’d build a rover to send to Mars to complete a set of tasks. In the competition, we used EV3 Lego sets to build rovers to complete those tasks. The first task was to collect as many rocks as possible, one at a time, and bring them back to a designated area. The second part of the competition was to retrieve broken rovers on a platform. The third piece involved a presentation on how we designed, maneuvered and worked as a team to succeed at the competition.

Now, I am starting my dreams by getting my foot in the door with the United States Army Corps of Engineers. Currently I’m shadowing the USACE engineers, who are taking me on real-life surveys and dredging projects. I’ve been able to learn how to survey the ocean to make sure certain spots are deep enough for cargo ships to pass through and learn how the issue of the water being too shallow is fixed by dredging.

All in all, as a student I have enjoyed many opportunities to not only further my career but also make my grasp on engineering techniques and work more concrete.

Having these in-person, hands-on experiences is not only making me a better engineer, it is making me a better student as well.

Sandra Chance, S.M.ASCE, is a student at Santa Rosa Junior College, majoring in civil and mechanical engineering. She also works as an R&D technical specialist at Keysight Technologies, where she has excelled, moving into the head production documentation developer role in just a few short months.

In her free time she likes to head out to the race track, watch the car races and spend time with her 2-year-old rottweiler, Hercules.

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