By Alex Hercules, Base 11 Fellow
An engineering club is an important piece of campus life for students. It creates a space where engineering and STEM majors can socialize, share and learn. But you may wonder, “How do I start one?” At Skyline College, in San Bruno, I lead a team of engineering students and together we build and design robots and structures. Having been part of the club both as a member and a leader has given me insight into how to create a fun and inclusive environment for everyone. Here are five tips for creating your own engineering club:
Go Through the Permission Process
The permission process is essentially the step you must take at your school in order to become a club. This usually consists of finding a club sponsor (such as a professor), declaring who club officers are, and having people who are interested sign up for it. Pro tip: Having a sponsor who is involved with the engineering world is invaluable because they can help you along your journey!
The permission process should be done as soon as possible, at the beginning of the semester, that way your club has adequate time to achieve whatever it is it wants to do. Be very clear and very realistic about what your club wants to do. Be careful not to reinvent the wheel, meaning don’t be a duplicate of another club.
Once you have your club set up you can begin planning out the group’s activities, whether that’s community outreach, hosting workshops, or fundraising for field trips to universities. Pick only two things to start, that way you aren’t overwhelmed in the beginning.
The first club event should be about advertising your name out there and acquiring capital to do more events in the future. Remember, though, that the club should about engineering, and not just fundraising. Do what it is you want to do with the club and tie that in with fundraising. Design some trinkets in SolidWorks and 3D print them to give away. For example, the engineering club at Skyline College laser engraved their logo onto cardboard squares and gave them away to advertise and recruit new members.
Take Part In Competitions
There are many competitions out there. In Northern California the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) hosts events every year. The engineering club at my school designs a solar boat for this competition every year as a tradition. It gives us a project where we all work together for a common goal. Competitions are excellent outlets for your club members to express themselves, and apply what they have learned in the classroom. Some competitions may even be hosted by your own school!
Plan Ahead and Try Teamwork
Last summer, I had an engineering fellowship at UCI’s Autonomous Systems Engineering program where I built a drone with a team of engineering students from other schools. Through that experience, I learned many things about what it’s like to work in a team. I would say my most valuable insight from the experience was learning to listen rather than to lead. Without listening and understanding, the team falls apart from the tension, and progress stagnates. I had gotten accustomed to being more of a “boss” than an actual leader, and so this experience brought me closer to what I truly want to be: a great leader. Employ more listening and teamwork by delegating tasks in your club– that way planning ahead comes easier and the team as a whole stays strong!
More Makes More Fun
Remember running a club should not be hair-ripping stressful. Above all else, the club should be fun for everyone involved. And everyone should be involved! Get the school dean to join in the fun as you learn about rotational inertia or why airplane wings are shaped the way they are. Hosting a STEM festival on your campus can be a great way to get everyone involved. Engineering is a team sport!
In the long term being a part of an engineering club can prepare you for your future career by letting you practice your team and technical skills. Having followed these tips the engineering club has grown to twice its size and is now trying to build a fully autonomous drone in time for a competition next year. If you start your own engineering club, I hope to see you out there!
Alex Hercules is a Skyline College student and Base 11 Fellow at UC Irvine. Learn more about how you can become a fellow and spend the summer at prestigious research institutions here.