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General Engineering


General Engineering Program • Cal Poly College of Engineering • Fall 2018

Creating your offers more emphasis areas own path GENE I Daleanna Charoensook, pictured here during an internship with PepsiCo in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., chose general engineering so she could focus her studies on chemical engineering.

“The students best suited to GENE are those who know what they want to study, and the engineering-based topics that they want to study are not addressed by the curriculum of any single department.” — Jean Lee, GENE Director

n high school, Daleanna Charoensook preferred to go to Cal Poly, but she was hesitant because she wanted to study chemical engineering, and the university didn’t offer that program. Luckily, a Cal Poly representative at her high school college fair told her about the CENG’s general engineering program, which allowed her to create an individual course study that centered around chemical engineering. “My favorite thing about the GENE program is choosing specific classes around my interests and what I would like to pursue in the future,” said Charoensook, originally from Anchorage, Alaska. Chemical engineering is one of four new emphasis areas in the department. Reflecting student interests and growth in the field, GENE now also offers suggested flowcharts for emphasis areas in sustainable energy, engineering entrepreneurship and product design. The general engineering program, which first appeared in the 1997-98 Cal Poly course cataPlease see PATH, Page 2


General Engineering students gathered in Engineering Plaza prior to the first day of the 2018-19 school year.

PATH From Page 1 logue, allows students to develop core competencies and a unique, individualized area of expertise. “The students best suited to GENE are those who know what they want to study, and the engineering-based topics that they want to study are not addressed by the curriculum of any single department,” said program director Jean Lee. “They are often selfmotivated, focused students who have a clear idea of what they want to pursue for their career.” Tanner Gorris knew he wanted to become an emergency room surgeon. But he also liked the idea of pursuing a hands-on engineering degree as an undergraduate. To satisfy both desires, he decided to pursue a degree in general engineering. “I will be taking a General Engineering lot more chemistry and Individualized Courses biology than your typical engineer in my lower of Study Include: division classes,” he said. • Technology Management “My upper division class• Alternative Energy es will be mainly within • Pre-MBA, Pre-Law, Pre-Med the BMED department, • Sales Engineering but I will be putting a • MEMS/Nanotech/Microfluidics heavier focus on physiol• Systems Engineering ogy-based classes, such as skeletal tissue mechanics, • Industrial Design and bioelectronics.” • Mechatronics After earning his • Product Development bachelor’s degree, he • Entrepreneurship will pursue his medical • Audio Engineering degree. • Chemical Engineering “Trauma care has always intrigued me, and I believe that having a degree within engineering will give a unique perspective to how I approach the problems I face,” he said. Charoensook knew that she wanted to pursue chemical engineering after volunteering at ConocoPhillips. Soon after, she decided she wanted to help design and manufacture medicine 2 | CAL POLY GENERAL ENGINEERING

and work with quality control processes. “I want to help produce medication that would help people in need of them,” she said. When students decide to pursue a GENE degree, they consult with the GENE director, who also serves as their faculty advisor, then they pursue their own emphasis area that is grounded in engineering. In the past, students have used this approach to pursue topics Tanner Gorris will pursue a medical like audio engineering, product degree after earning an undergraduate design and development and degree in General Engineering. sustainable energy systems. “Many employers like the self motivation, focus and drive displayed by GENE students,” Lee said. The GENE program is not intended for students who are undecided, Lee noted. If a student is undecided and GENE is not among the majors he or she is considering, Lee said, it’s recommended that they talk to faculty advisors in the majors they are considering to learn more about them. Many students who decide to pursue a GENE degree select the Individual Course of Study (ICS) concentration. Then, working with their advisor, they create a plan of study. “I have arranged to take thermodynamics, fluid dynamics, the organic chemistry series, physical chemistry, heat transfer, and mass transfer as some of my classes,” Charoensook said. The new emphasis areas are developed based on students’ interests by the GENE director, in consultation with the CENG dean and the GENE steering committee, which consists of six faculty members from different CENG departments. In the past, GENE has also served as an incubator for new programs. Biomedical engineering, for example, started out as an emphasis in the GENE Department. “Over time, BMED became such a commonly pursued emphasis area in GENE that it was eventually spun off as its own department,” Lee said.

Seeing the Light Through the Trees Anna Laird’s Yosemite youth inspired her to pursue an environmental career focused on energy


“General Engineering was attractive to me because I could shape my own course of study to have the flexibility to incorporate multiple engineering disciplines into my major. ”

hile working as a Yosemite campground ranger one night, Anna Laird had a surprise encounter with a mother bear and her two cubs. Luckily, a member of the Bear Team was there. “The Bear Team needed to run some tests on the — Anna Laird mother, so I got to assist in keeping the cubs occupied up in a tree while the mother was being worked on,” Laird said. “It was so cool to interact so closely with such animals.” While she’s quick to advise others NOT to interact with wild bears, that experience is one of many that stoked Laird’s desire to pursue a career protecting the places she loves. “Growing up in close proximity to a natural wonder like Yosemite really motivated my interest in environmental causes,” she said. “I remember as a kid, I used to think to myself, ‘Why on earth would anyone want to do anything that could hurt this place?’” Her hometown, El Portal, is a small rural community in the heart of California Gold Country. Comprised largely of National Park Service or concessionaire employees, El Portal elementary schools were small – Laird was one of three in her class – but they incorporated a lot of experiential learning. “We would take monthly field trips to new parts of Yosemite National Park and receive instruction from outdoor educators,” she said. “Outside of school, no one had TV, so we had to entertain ourselves with the great outdoors and our imaginations.” Even though she spent considerable time there, hiking, backpacking, snowboarding and more, she still loves the Yosemite Valley.

“I love the feeling of being in the High Sierras, surrounded by the incredible granite mountains and pristine snowmelt creeks, rivers and lakes,” she said. Knowing that fossil fuels have been detrimental to the planet, she developed an interest in green energy and decided to learn more about the science and technology behind energy production. “At Cal Poly, it is easy to touch on energy in the different fields within engineering,” she said. But, she added, being, say, a mechanical engineer would not allow as much flexibility to pursue courses related to her interests. “General Engineering was attractive to me because I could shape my own course of study to have the flexibility to incorporate multiple engineering disciplines into my major.” The degree she created is a general engineering degree with an energy engineering concentration. Around her freshman year, Laird also decided she wanted to eventually attend law school. “I have always wanted to have a career with purpose, and I have found that the biggest impact that I personally can have is working in the legal field to help support environmental causes and work in environmental policy,” she said. She is currently pursuing Environmental Energy Law at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, where she will perform legal research with an environmental law professor. Eventually, she wants to work with the law school’s Green Energy Institute, which researches and reforms grid policies to help incorporate more renewable resources. Laird looks at what she calls the consumption mindset of fellow Americans and remembers how she felt as a child. “I want to bridge the gap between policy and science and work to improve the sustainability of our country, or even the world.” GENE.CALPOLY.EDU | 3


The Sound of Music Anna Shabrova tailored her general engineering degree to match her audio interests


Above: Anna Shabrova sets up the sound for a cellist in the MU 312 class at Cal Poly.

“Since my interest is inherently interdisciplinary, the freedom of general engineering really appealed to me. I could take mechanical, electrical and IME classes, which was extremely helpful because they’re all involved in audio engineering.” — Anna Shabrova


orking as a stagehand at two popular Bay Area music venues, Anna Shabrova not only helped set up lighting, video and sound before showtime – she also had to manage tensions on a tight deadline. “Because there’s such a short time frame to get everything set up, and people have a rough life on the road, tempers tend to run short,” she said. “Hesitation or a slow response is one of the fastest ways to get someone frustrated at you in that environment.” Despite the pressures, prepping concerts for acts like Santana, Soundgarden and Van Halen furthered her interest in sound, eventually prompting her to pursue a general engineering deAnna Shabrova gree tailored to an audio career. “I don’t actually know how others listen to music, but I think I’ve gotten more particular about clarity,” said Shabrova, who now works at HARMAN International, which makes car audio systems. “So I care more that all the instruments are distinct and clean, that the vocals aren’t being overshadowed by the guitar, or the bass and rhythm guitar don’t blend into one instrument. Also, a focused bass response that has a punch to it.” Shabrova first became interested in audio in high school, when she joined the theater department. “I joined because my brother and a lot of my friends were involved, and it was a great excuse to hang out after school,” she said. After initially working backstage, she asked to be in the booth so she could actually see the shows. “From there, I became one of the three people that really knew the sound system,”

“Then someone suggested bringing companies in to showcase their products, and I thought, since companies would be at Cal Poly anyway, why not turn it into a career fair!” — Anna Shabrova on the development of AudioCon

General Engineering graduate Anna Shabrova, third from right, sits at the Audio Engineering Society table during AudioCon, a career fair Shabrova helped organize. Below, Shabrova works a mixing board during her high school days.

she said. “And I enjoyed it, so I stayed with it.” She also worked sound for the Sunnyvale Community Players and then Live Nation Entertainment before pursuing her degree. While Cal Poly does not offer an audio engineering program, universities that do tend to be focused on production, she said. “So studio and live mixing, and not engineering in the traditional sense,” she said. “I’m not aware of any audio engineering major anywhere that is focused on acoustics and the mechanical and electrical aspects.” Cal Poly’s General Engineering program allowed her to tailor her studies to accommodate her audio interests. “Since my interest is inherently interdisciplinary, the freedom of general engineering really appealed to me,” she said. “I could take mechanical, electrical and IME classes, which was extremely helpful because they’re all involved in audio engineering.” While at Cal Poly, she helped put on the first AudioCon as copresident of the Cal Poly Audio Engineering Society. “AudioCon started with the idea for an AES showcase in the spring, just to establish more of a presence on campus and for the club,” she said. “Then someone suggested bringing companies in to showcase their products, and I thought, since companies would be at Cal Poly anyway, why not turn it into a career fair!” The career fair, which grew exponentially, proved there were viable audio careers out there – proven by the acoustic engineer job

Shabrova would eventually land at HARMAN in Michigan. “I work with a great team of people to tune cars for the best audio quality they can provide,” she explained. “Because of speaker placement and the way the interior is laid out, a car isn’t naturally going to sound good, and it’s our job to manipulate the audio in a way that creates a great listening experience.” A fan of heavy metal and rock music – with a little country, pop and hip-hop thrown in – Shabrova said her car audio system is in a permanent state of “good enough” due to the amount of work that would be required to get it right. Her optimal listening experience comes from headphones, which allows her to be mobile. “With living room stereo there is exactly one listening spot that sounds perfect and then everywhere else isn’t as good as that one spot,” she said. GENE.CALPOLY.EDU | 5


Meet some of our General Engineering students at Cal Poly: My favorite experience so far

has been hiking back to the Architecture Graveyard where previous students have designed and constructed their senior projects. My friends and I explore the outdoors and often set up hammocks to hangout and relax after a busy week of school.


n Course of study in General Engineering:


n Why I chose General Engineering as my major: As an

aspiring physician, general engineering gives me the latitude to complete medical school prerequisites, while studying an emerging engineering field. n Most surprising thing about Cal Poly: The pace of the quarter system. n Favorite thing about Cal Poly: The Poly campus’s sense of camaraderie.

JACOB PERLMAN (Pleasanton, CA)

n Course of study in General Engineering:

Sustainable Energy

n Why I chose General Engineering as my major: I was not sure which field of en-

gineering I wanted to pursue so I chose General Engineering. I knew that I wanted to do something involving sustainable energy and found out that as a General Engineering Major I could tailor my schedule around my specific interests. n Most surprising thing about Cal Poly: For me, the most surprising thing about Cal Poly was how hard everyone works. The library is always packed with students studying for hours at a time. The amount of effort and time required for even General Education classes is much more than high school and it was kind of a reality check my first quarter. n Favorite thing about Cal Poly: My favorite thing about Cal Poly is the amount of opportunities that are provided to students to get involved in pretty much anything you want. My first quarter I checked out the Baja-Racing club and began rock climbing. I love how you can go at anytime and rent free rock-climbing shoes or other equipment to try new things. n Most memorable experience (so far)


n Most memorable experience (so far) at Cal Poly: Shadowing graduate students as they

tissue engineered blood vessels.


(San Diego, CA)

n Course of study in General Engineering: Product Design n Why I chose General Engineering as my major: I chose General Engineering be-

cause the flexibility of choosing my upper division courses is enticing for an engineer who wants to blend multiple engineering disciplines. For Product Design specifically, I am able to blend Mechanical, Industrial Design and Manufacturing, and Electrical Engineering courses to create a curriculum that more closely fits my interests and needs than any of those majors separately. More standardized engineering disciplines such as Mechanical Engineering are very rigid in their course curriculum, and I believe in many cases includes courses that are outside a particular student’s scope of interest, as they are trying to generalize. Ironically, I believe General Engineering is anything

but general, and instead very specific to a blend of engineering disciplines. n Most surprising thing about Cal Poly: Two things that equally surprised me: One: the showers in the dorms. I thought there would be a bench or seat to put your things down on, but it’s just like camping! It took some getting used to... Two: the professors’ compassion for their work and their students. All of my professors immediately expressed interest in my success in not only their course, but in my future career. I was very surprised as a new college student to be hit with this wave of enthusiasm and push to get a job. It’s exciting but also frightening to be coached so early on how to properly prepare for an interview and write a resume. I am confident that I will be well prepared for any job coming out of this school. n Favorite thing about Cal Poly: I greatly enjoy the walkability of campus and its proximity to downtown. It’s very easy to go get dinner or watch a movie in Downtown either by taking the bus or enjoying a stroll. It also surprised me how close all my classes are to one another. I feel like I can get to every one of my classes within 15 minutes of my dorm. n Most memorable experience (so far) at Cal Poly: Near the end of Fall Quarter I decided

to go to a meeting for the Prototype Vehicle Lab (PROVE Lab) and see what their club was about and decide if I wanted to join it. That day the team was working on cutting and sanding metal braces to go on the chassis of their solar powered racecar. To my surprise and delight they immediately let me jump into the work (talk about “Handson Learning!”) and I got to help cut and sand all the materials as if I’d been a part of the team all along. It’s been a great learning experience watching and learning from the more experienced members as they finish building their record-breaking racecar.


n Course of study in General Engineering:


n Why I chose General Engineering as my major: I always knew I wanted to do engi-

neering, but never really had much exposure to it growing up. I chose the General Engineering program because it offered more flexibility than other majors which allowed me to experiment with my interests. n Favorite thing about Cal Poly: The Learn by Doing philosophy. A lot of schools have fancy sounding slogans that don’t hold

n Most memorable experience (so far) at Cal Poly: I’ve had a lot of memorable experienc-

much water, but Cal Poly is different. Cal Poly is great because it pushes you to to apply everything you learn and reach outside your comfort zone through labs, projects and clubs. It’s hard to go through four years at this school without having some concrete exposure to what you’ll be doing in industry after you graduate.

es at Cal Poly, but my most pivotal memory is what pushed me to study engineering. I had come into Cal Poly as a business major, and during my sophomore year I took my first finance class. My professor sometimes started class by pitching an idea to the class and offering a partnership to any students who had the skills to make the idea tangible and profitable, but students rarely took him up on it because he had a reputation for being short and unforgiving...I was terrified of speaking up because I didn’t want to be shot down. One day this professor pitched an idea for a calculator app that would fill a need for more robust operations used frequently in finance. So I decided to go to office hours and stake my claim under the assumption that my position as a student and

some show of confidence of what I knew was sufficient to compel my professor to offer me a spot. I was unsatisfied with my major and wanted to try something new.. programming seemed cool...what about design? I’d never REALLY done anything I would have considered to be either. Long story short, I went to his office hours and he told me in the nicest way he knew how that I had nothing to offer for that project. I was embarrassed, but the rejection made me realize where my interests really were. I walked straight from my professor’s office to the Engineering Advising Center and told them I wanted to change my major. It was totally irrational because I had bombed physics and math in high school...there was no reason to think I’d be good at engineering. It ended up being the best decision I’ve made for myself since getting into Cal Poly.

Coordinating with flair

Meet Kim McCann, the new administrative support coordinator for GENE and for senior projects in the ME Department


f you’re near campus and need help formulating this year’s Halloween costume, you might consider visiting new administrative support coordinator Kim McCann. McCann began making costumes for her children, then progressed to local theater productions in Tucson, where she lived for several years before relocating here last April. McCann, who attended University of Arizona as an early childhood education student, got her first taste of engineering while working for her father, a land surveyor and partner in a Tucson engineering firm. In July, McCann started working at Cal Poly as the administrative support coordinator for both the General Engineering Department and for senior projects in the Mechanical Engineering program. She lives in Morro Bay. We talked to her about her new job and her hobbies, which include creating silk art clothing, cooking and gardening. What do you like about Morro Bay?

It seems to have a really gentle culture.

How did the silk painting come about?

I always enjoyed creativity and always liked to challenge myself to learn something new every year. I used to stretch it on frames and do painting. But that takes up a lot of space. So I developed a new process (on clothing) called ice painting. That’s how you get the free form. Were you into art growing up?

Always. I used to do a lot of drawing. A ton of sewing. My mom taught me to sew when I was in third grade. With the kids, there were always costumes for something, so a lot of sewing there. So I always loved Halloween because they

could pick out what they wanted for Halloween – it couldn’t be gory – and I’d make them a costume for it. What are some of the ones you made?

Teen Wolf. We had Leif Erickson one time – the helmet with horns on it, the shield and everything. My daughter was the Statue of Liberty one time. Evan one time was a mad scientist and a rich businessman. So you always made Halloween costumes?

Always. And they always won first place.

Are you into drama very much?

I do not care for acting. But I like the behind-the-scenes part.

What was the most challenging costume you made for a play?

I had to do these corsets for the dancing gals, and I had to do boning, which I had never done before. When you got to see them on stage, what was that like?

It was rewarding. I try to be original in the costumes I do. It adds to their part in the play. Did you make your own costumes for Halloween, too?

A number of years back, my husband and I went to a Halloween party and we were Gomez and Morticia Addams. I wear that every year. I tease my hair all big and put baby powder on my face. What do you like about Cal Poly?

I have not run into a single negative person. Everybody is very welcoming and ready to help you. What is the question you expect to have to answer the most?

“How do I get my reimbursement?”


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