Tag Archives: Local Life

Marathons, Manufacturing, and Many Adventures!

Today, we have one of my favorite fellow Mechanical Engineers from college – she’s smart, motivated, and super sweet! She’s a great example of how you can still change what area of engineering you pursue regardless of the degree you graduated with. Read on to learn more about my good friend, Megan….

Hi! My name is Megan Prokop. I am a manufacturing engineer working at Draper Laboratory in Cambridge, Massachusetts. When I am not working or traveling, you can usually find me running. I recently ran my first Marathon in October 2013.

My husband and I after finishing the Chicago Marathon

My husband and I after finishing the Chicago Marathon

I love being a manufacturing engineer; it is challenging, exciting and requires decisions to be made quickly – but manufacturing is not the career I had planned when I was at Worcester Polytechnic Institute getting my degree in Mechanical Engineering.

I decided to go into engineering because I enjoyed and excelled in math and science and loved problem solving. I attended WPI and became interested in mechanical design through one of my professors. I was interested in how parts moved and interacted in order to create motion and how products could be designed in order to help peoples’ lives.

During the summers after my sophomore and junior years I interned at General Electric in Connecticut where I performed product testing. One of my favorite tests was using a fire hose to blast an electrical panel with water to ensure it would not leak. When the unit failed, I had to figure out why and suggest improvements to eliminate the leakage.

Product Testing at GE

Product Testing at GE

I graduated in 2007 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering with a concentration in Design. I went to work for Raytheon where I planned to put my new design skills to use. It didn’t take me long to figure out design was not where I’d spend my career.

I craved work that was more hands-on, where I could see the immediate impact of my work. I was fortunate to have a great manager who encouraged me to rotate into a manufacturing role where I would be responsible for developing a process for assembling circuit cards. He stressed the fact that a stint in manufacturing would make me a better designer engineer. Manufacturing would teach me how to design items for easy assembly and give me a better appreciation of the work required to build my designs. I was nervous to make this jump to the manufacturing floor since I had no experience with manufacturing or circuit cards, but was excited to give it a try.

Graduation from WPI!

Graduation from WPI!

Working on a manufacturing floor is fast paced and stressful, but it’s also extremely rewarding. You’re able to make changes to a process and immediately see how they affect the cost, quality and schedule of the finished product. I worked closely with people in many different positions who were all needed in order to make sure the process went smoothly – including people from supply chain, operations, test engineering, materials engineering, and my previous role – design engineering.

As suggested by my manager, I found that some of the plans from the design engineers proved very difficult to build. I also worked closely with the technicians who completed the manual part of the assembly. They taught me the differences between a good and a bad process and showed me and how to write a process that was easy to follow. I recently transitioned from circuit card manufacturing to system repair which has given me new a perspective on how the all the pieces of a system interact and the challenges of making all the parts come together to create a single product.

I’ve always loved to travel and continue to do so whenever I have the opportunity. In high school I traveled to my home town’s sister city in Japan: Nobeoka. I lived with a Japanese host family and attended Japanese school for two weeks. The trip was complicated by the fact that I knew almost no Japanese and my host family spoke minimal English, but the experience taught me to embrace other cultures and to learn as much as I can about the places I travel.

Meeting our Classmates and Participating in a Japanese Tea Ceremony (Nobeoka, Japan)

Meeting our Classmates and Participating in a Japanese Tea Ceremony (Nobeoka, Japan)

One reason I chose to go to WPI was the fact that they encouraged the students to go abroad at least once during their education. While at WPI I traveled to Copenhagen, Denmark to complete an interdisciplinary project. I worked with two other students at an Open Air Museum, where we developed a GPS guided tour that was aimed at getting middle and high school students more interested in the museum.

Exploring Copenhagen, Denmark

Exploring Copenhagen, Denmark

Since then, I have traveled as much as possible. My favorite trips have been to Costa Rica, Italy, Hawaii and Victoria, British Columbia. Some of the best experiences of my life have required stepping outside my comfort zone, including zip lining in Costa Rica and flying in a helicopter in Hawaii.

Getting ready to take flight (Kauai, Hawaii)

Getting ready to take flight (Kauai, Hawaii)

In front of the colessum in Rome, Italy and a view of the Cinque Terre

In front of the coliseum in Rome, Italy and a view of the Cinque Terre

Orca whale watching in Victoria, BC

Orca whale watching in Victoria, BC

For work and for travel, my advice is to be open to change, push yourself and always go on adventures. You never know where you may end up and what amazing experiences await you.

Megan Costa Rica Collage

Zip-lining in Costa Rica – awesome adventure!

Drive around Cebu

One of our friends from work arranged for us to have a driver take us around Cebu to see some different sites outside of Moalboal. Luckily they had a car that could fit all of us so we hopped in the car and took off.

PH Driving Group Shot

The drive along the coast was magnificent – such breathtaking views of the ocean. We couldn’t believe we were in such a paradise.

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The road was a bit windy at some points…

Drive Around Cebu 2

…and we passed quite a few cute little towns.

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It was nice because it gave us the chance to see a few things we wouldn’t have seen within the small town that we were staying – more of the country side and a little more about how people live here. There were lots of fields for growing crops…

Drive Around Cebu 2

Many families outside enjoying the beautiful weather…

Drive Around Cebu 1

Water Buffalo in the fields…

Drive Around Cebu 5

And finally, a field full of roosters with their own little huts.

Drive Around Cebu 6

Before we finished our drive, our driver said he thought there was one more place that we should stop before he took us home. He pulled into a parking lot and we got out and saw one of the biggest cathedrals that we have ever seen!

Mother Church

It was also very beautiful on the inside.

Mother Church Inside View

This church had the reputation of causing miracles and so people come from all around to come and say their prayers.The walls were lined with letters from people telling stories of their answered prayers. It was very clear this was a very important place to the people in the local area.

Answered Prayers

We walked along the walk ways outside and there were great views of the nearby water.

Mother Church Sea View

Mother Church Sea View 2

In case you haven’t noticed, we really enjoyed our vacation in the Philippines…still more stories to come, so stay tuned!

Local Life – Philippines

One of our favorite parts about traveling is the fact that you get to see what other people’s every day lives are like. There are so many different ways to live life and the more you travel, the more you can adopt some of the better points from the amazing people you meet. All of the people we met in the Philippines were unbelievably friendly and full of joy – I saw nothing but smiles. This is one of the aspects to third world countries that I’ve found remarkable - people are always capable of finding happiness regardless of what they have or don’t have. It changed my perspective about what I “need” and makes me incredibly thankful for what I have.

The Philippines are a country of islands and so their culture is very much centered on the water. This is one of my favorite pictures from the trip because it shows how happy and carefree the kids were. They would climb up on the scuba dive ships when they were about to leave and then once they had made their way out to the ocean far enough, the kids would  jump into the water and race each other back. They had such a blast – it was really fun to watch them enjoy the water so much.

Filipino Kids

Kids on Diving Boat

Jump in and race to shore

In this town, they don’t have big shops nearby so most people do their shopping here at the public market…

Moalboal Public Market

Fish @ Market

Fruit @ Market

They use motorbikes as their primary form of transportation and they try to get the maximum number of people on the smallest number of motorbikes (this picture has 5 people, 1 large bag of rice, and another large bag of groceries)…

5 People on Motorbike

…they also get creative with transporting livestock…

Pig on Motorbike

…and getting kids to school.

Filipino School Bus

The standards for safety are not quite the same and this is a sight you may not ever see…lots of cables tied into those power lines. They have found a way to make it work.

Electrical Cables

At the end of each day, we saw men out fishing in their boats…they always looked both peaceful and intent at the same time. What a beautiful way to end each day – on your boat at sunset.

Fisherman at Sunrise

I think the lesson from the Filipinos is to enjoy each day – don’t waste your time stressing about what you want and don’t have; instead, enjoy what you do have and share it with others if you can.

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