Oh, The People You'll Know: Claire Bowman
Over the summer, I interned at Asahi Kasei Bioprocess America (AK-BA). We did a lot of assembly work where it was extremely important that the components we worked with stayed clean. To ensure this, the suppliers would cap any open pipes on each part. So, as we made progress assembling we would have an abundance of red, plastic caps with seemingly no use.
One day I stayed late at work and as I returned to the interns’ desks to collect my things I noticed something on my computer: an apple. Not the fruit itself, but a little apple constructed out of those discarded red caps. Although surprised and delighted, I knew exactly who had made this gift: Claire Bowman.
Claire was also an intern at AK-BA and, despite being a fellow MechSE student, that’s how we met. It’s hard to just explain why I appreciate her character so much, so I’d like to continue with some anecdotal evidence – some of my favorite stories from her.
The chicken is in the coop
One thing that Claire always expressed appreciation for was creativity and it was what I would consider one of her most defining characteristics. As a child, Claire prided herself on making extravagant birthday cards – if you could even call them cards. She would use motors that, after pulling a string or flipping a switch, would create little scenes that acted out an inside joke or something significant to its recipient.
Claire and her cousin used to say to each other “the chicken is in the coop” as a joke and so Claire made her a chicken coop that, when activated, would make the chicken inside flap its wings.
Rides don’t always break
If you ever wondered what passion sounds like… ask Claire about Disney World. You could ask her to describe her favorite ride and she could relay the experience in so much detail you felt you had just gotten off of it. She has a love for the creativity in not just the décor or the story-telling, but in the engineering. I asked Claire to describe her favorite Disney memory and the one she picked out was when a ride was broken down. (FYI: Claire informed me that a lot of the time the rides don’t truly break, the safety measures are just so thorough that if a sensor is tripped people have to evacuate so that attendants can assure that everything is okay.)
“So we’re just about to go and the ride stops so we had to get evacuated,” Claire said. “I love Disney and everything they show us, but even more than that I love what they don’t show us. We were taken off of the ride and we got to go through the landscape of it. We saw the things that you usually couldn’t like the wires and the mechanisms of the animals and how it all moves. It was so cool and I couldn’t see enough of it! I was just trying to look at every single detail and that was my favorite.”
Job shadows at Six Flags
Over the summer, Claire thought it would be cool to do a job shadow with an engineer that works on roller coasters. There is a Six Flags Great America close to where she grew up and so she decided to reach out. There’s no exact place to apply for a job shadow, but Claire, instead of being discouraged, just posted in the general comments about possibly doing one. Eventually Claire got in contact with one of their engineers and after a couple weeks of coordination she was able to spend the day with engineers at Six Flags.
She came back to AK-BA the next day filled with stories and lessons from her experience. When I asked her which one stuck out the most she said, “We [engineers] may be designing something for six months, a year, two years of our lives, but then a mechanic can maintenance that thing you made for their lifetime. So keep that in mind when you design something.”
“I chose mechanical engineering because as a kid I’d always have lots of ideas in my head, but it was really frustrating because I didn’t know how to actually implement them. I was really hindered in what I could make from my ideas because I didn’t have the skillset to make them. With mechanical engineering you learn so many different ways to make your ideas into a reality. That’s what really inspired me.”
Claire is a sophomore in mechanical engineering, is involved with ASME and Rube Goldberg, and is pursuing a co-op at Disney World. She has an innate sense of creativity that’s been apparent since she was making birthday cards, she has a passion for engineering magical worlds, she is self-motivated and ambitious enough to seek out her own opportunities, and all these things together are why I admire her so much.
Claire and I had very different paths to mechanical engineering and we have extremely different aspirations within it, but that’s what makes MechSE so special. I have the privilege of going to the same school as someone this impressive and this different and I get to learn about them. I’ve gained perspective and grown as a person and engineer from working with Claire and it opens my eyes to how getting to know my other peers will enrich my life as well.