Get 'em while they're young

We were over at the inlaws over the weekend to mooch off their cable and catch some World Cup (gooooooo Deutchland! Ultimate champeeeeeeeeeens!) My eldest sister-in-law is fifteen and has expressed prior interest in maybe marine biology or maybe ocean engineering. She asked yesterday if we'd be needing the calculators we have as she'll be starting Algebra II next year and needs a graphing calculator. Unfortunately we'll both be using ours in the fall but I said I'd look for an old TI-82 that used to be mine (I guess the kids these days use TI-84s or TI-84+ or something).
It got me to thinking though about an opportunity here. Usually I try to be an example of a woman in engineering, but I'm not even sure these girls know what I do or what I'm studying. But maybe they do and maybe it means it's something they won't rule out purely on gender. It's hard for me to be an avid recruiter for women in engineering because some days it's so hard I can't imagine bringing another innocent soul into this world. I asked her if they did fundraising for the calculators like they used to, but I guess not anymore. And it sounded like her parents didn't want to buy her a new calculator and had probably prodded her to ask her older brother for one. That disappoints me a little, as they are not dirt poor and a good graphing calculator can be the foundation to a great engineering career. I know plenty of people who swear by theirs, whatever model they learned on, and it's one of those things that's part of your toolbox for life.
So I'll have to talk to my husband about this. I mean, I can give her the old TI-82, that is certainly an option. But maybe we can offer to split the cost of a new one with the parents. And maybe part of the deal is she has to take a few tours. There is a local site that if I can find someone willing would be a fantastic place to fuel her interest in science, and right up her alley. I haven't wanted to push what I do, or what I think they should do on to them. I made some bad decisions but I ended up okay and it's hard finding that balance of letting them choose an interest but also not letting them flail around lost and confused. I could take her around where I work as well but somehow I don't know that MegaCorp would be as exciting. It would be a great "backup" idea for her if she does go into engineering, but I'm not sure it's what she wants to do. It's hard walking the fine line between being a positive ambassador to my field without becoming a used car salesman.


  1. You could just say you can't find it, even if you know where it is. It's not like she can take the class without a calculator, and I can't imagine her parents being so stingy as to prevent her from taking the class due to lack of calculator, so they would end up buying one, and it's not that easy to find used ones. Also, it's possible that I'm wrong, but I wouldn't imagine marine biology, if that is what she chooses, uses graphing calculators all that often. And I would guess that even you probably use things like Matlab at work more often than a hand-held.

  2. FatBigot12:10

    I agree with Kethlak:

    Either I'm just doing some quick calculations and a cheap Casio is fine.

    Or I'm evaluating a series of scenarios, which I will need to record, if not actually formally report. Mathcad or a spreadsheet are ideal here.

    Or it's heavy duty datacrunching, for which specialist or home-grown software is required.

    My late father had a whole series of calculators, starting with a Curta, a number of increasingly elaborate slide rules and finally HP calculators. I regularly use his 15C, but the HP48 just stays in my desk drawer. It's an excellent calculator, but it's hard to cut and paste a graph to powerpoint to demonstrate a point to a production manager.

    I suspect it may be a UK/US culture thing, I am not expected to keep a personal notebook with handwritten calculations in it.