Big Book Winners!

BigBookCoverLast week, you had the opportunity to win a free copy of The Big Book of Engineering Challenges by sharing a strategy on my Facebook contest thread that you use to get students interested in learning more about engineering or STEM careers.

And the winners are…

Not many people entered so I’m giving a book away to everyone who posted something!

A big **Thank You!** to those who participated.

Below are the strategies posted by your peers:

  1. We’ve been doing engineering design challenges for many years as part of our NIU STEM Outreach programs. One strategy that we use is to embed the challenge within a narrative that students can relate to. In short, storytelling where they determine the outcome by their ingenuity.
  2. SAME hosts engineering camps through the academies for high school students. Lets them have a chance for hands-on experience & also to network with kids their age from across the country & different backgrounds so they learn why others have an interest in engineering.
  3. Sometimes making it known that scholarships are available helps those who are worried about the cost of an engineering education.
  4. Getting kids, particularly a small group, together working a project that relates closely with another area of interest to them (designing/building a musical instrument, if interested in music, & then discussing how it could be put into wider production, can show how engineering ties into essentially everything we do.
  5. Provide information (such as from the Engineering Education Service Center) to school guidance counselors about engineering careers, particularly in areas underserved for STEM support.
  6. With the parents’ permission, of course, take the student to your workplace (&, if possible, project) to let them see what you do, how you do it, meet & talk with co-workers & then see the project in progress.
  7. Work with the student on a project that directly contributes to her community. Perhaps team with a local school & develop the project idea with their teachers, so some of the in-class experience can support the project too.
  8. I assign fun and relevant engineering challenges for my 7th grade science class every chance I get. Last one was to build an human arm while studying muscular and skeletal systems. We then watched videos and read articles about how engineers develop prosthetics. I believe feeling like an engineer makes engineering careers more approachable for middle schoolers.
  9. I like to teach new vocabulary or present a real world issue to my students then have them come up with ways to fix it. They’re currently trying to build water filters to clean polluted water. A few weeks ago we were learning about buoyancy and density. They designed boats, we sunk them then discussed why some sunk faster than others. They LOVE STEM!
  10. Teaming with another teacher in the school to help the kids develop an engineering solution to an issue in that other subject areas, such as some event in history — find a different way to solve it than what actually happened.
  11. Just to talk with students about engineering + why it’s important.

Lots of good suggestions here.

Finding a Good Engineering Program

NJITOnce you decide to pursue an engineering or engineering technology education, preparation should begin as soon as possible. On the most basic level, college is designed to open doors. It teaches you how to think, solve ambiguous problems and use the tools of engineering such as design and simulation software – this gets you ready for employment.

There are several approaches to pursue an engineering or engineering technology career. You can attend a community or junior college, vocational school, technical college, state university or other public or private university. Programs range from one year or less for a certificate, two-three years for an associate’s degree and four-five years for a bachelor’s degree. Each path has its advantages and disadvantages. College classes are taught with the expectation that you are willing to do some research on your own and that you are motivated to do so.

Choosing the engineering or engineering technology school that is right for you is as important as wheels are to automobiles. Hundreds of schools offer engineering programs; some schools have engineering dorms, some offer engineering fraternities or sororities, some are inner-city and some are spread out over large distances. The advantages and disadvantages of each school will depend on your personal needs and wants. Important considerations for most college-bound students include location, cost, faculty, school size, and academics. To find a program in the United States, visit ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology).

Robot Makers!

Robot Makers: An Essential guide to Choosing a Career in RoboticsAt long last, my new book, two years in the making, is finally ready! Robot Makers: An Essential Guide to Choosing a Career in Robotics is here and ready to help students choose a career in robotics. Robot making is a practical and engaging way for students to learn STEM subjects. Robotic competitions allow students to apply the skills inside or outside of the classroom. The experience is ideal preparation for entering the workforce, which is why participating students are frequently offered internship and employment opportunities while still in school.

If you have students that build robots, enjoy the experience and want more, Robot Makers is essential to helping them learn about the abundant opportunities in robotics, the many types of robots, what robots can do for us, what degree is needed to work as a roboticist, and how much money they can make.

The careers that support the industry offer opportunities to be creative and are challenging, prestigious, and satisfying.

In my excitement to share this title, I have two special give-aways for my readers.

  1. Everyone who orders before the May 1 publication date will receive a PowerPoint presentation on “Choosing a Career in Robotics” that you can use to talk to students about the available career choices. It’s colorful, has great pictures, and is designed to save you time. As an extra bonus, on this particular PowerPoint, there are no copyright restrictions – it’s yours to use freely. You can edit it, pass it around or post it online – it’s up to you.
  2. For everyone who orders at least four copies (every library needs a copy), you will receive a Textrix Remote Control or Autonomous Robotic Engineering Activity Guide. These guides, published by Pitsco and valued at $39.95, help students learn about robot engineering, simple machines, torque, power, and problem solving. Activities guide students in creating robots that draw, dance, herd golf balls, and more! These full-color guides can be used alone or as a supplement to current curriculum. Supplies are limited. One book per customer.

The Table of Content and a Glimpse of Chapter One are Online.

Book Give-Away Distribution

ITAEIY4_300x450If you missed the opportunity to get a free copy of Is There an Engineer Inside You?, you’ll have to wait until next year – unless you are one of the lucky ones who attends an event sponsored by one of our book give-away partners.

We are currently in the second year of a five year program to freely distribute 100,000 books. Books have been shipped all over the world and are also available as a free download on many partner’s websites.

In the 2013-2014 school year, about 8000 books were distributed.

This year, the numbers are already better! I am forecasting that almost 16,000 books will be distributed and downloaded – a 100% increase! There are 17 partners working hard to promote engineering education and this effort will undoubtedly reach more students, teachers, counselors, and parents.

If you have a special program and wish to receive books next year, watch for my 100K Book Give-Away announcement this Spring and jump in with your request/application.

2014-2015 EESC Distribution

  1. Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (200 books)
  2. Global STEM Education Center (50 books)
  3. Nicholson STEM Academy (144 books)
  4. Reading High School (1 book)
  5. Everett Public Schools (2 books)
  6. Raisbeck Aviation High School (64 books)
  7. Rockingham Middle School (40 books)
  8. Bio-Med Academy (16 books)
  9. Penn Manor High School Engineering Club (100 books)
  10. Casa Verde High School of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (30 books)
  11. Muscatine Community School District (40 books)
  12. Timberlane Regional High School (1 book)
  13. Hampton City Schools (18 books)
  14. Meadow Hill Middle School (15 books)
  15. Robbins AFB, GA (20 books)
  16. Union Public Schools (15 books)
  17. Affton High School – Future Strong STEM night (80 books)
  18. Assumption School (1 book)
  19. St. Cloud Area School District 742 (12 books)
  20. Syracuse University (40 books)
  21. Midway Elementary School of Science and Engineering (6 books)
  22. Northampton Community College (10 books)
  23. Futureintech (20 books)
  24. Wichita State University, STEMpact2020 (40 books)

2014-2015 Book Give-Away Partners

My thanks and gratitude go to the Official National Partners that banded together to put this book in the hands of thousands of students. Each partner is giving away 300 books plus their websites are great places to visit and get a free download.

  1. Auburn University
  2. Boston Society of Civil Engineers
  3. Christian Brothers University
  4. Embry Riddle Aeronautical University
  5. Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
  6. Louisiana Tech University
  7. Missouri University of Science and Technology
  8. Northwestern State University
  9. Prefreshman Engineering Program, The University of Texas at San Antonio
  10. Purdue University
  11. Rowan University
  12. SeaPerch
  13. Society of Women Engineers, Tulsa Northeast Oklahoma Section
  14. Tulsa Public Schools
  15. University of Evansville
  16. University of Tennessee at Knoxville
  17. Weber State University

 

Still Time to Get Free Books for your STEM Program

Is There an Engineer Inside You?The books arrived yesterday! A big semi pulled up and two pallets of books were dropped off.

These are books that you can request for your STEM or engineering program.

There is no charge. It’s first-come first-serve. Even the shipping to you is covered.

It’s part of the 100,000 Book Give-Away. The seventeen colleges and organizations that chipped-in want all students to understand the potential of an engineering degree or career. They know that an engineering education is one of the best a person can get and they want to share their positive feelings, thoughts and attitudes. They want to see students get informed and succeed. One Dean of an engineering school told me, “It’s the right thing to do.”

I’m not alone – they are each giving away books and most also have the book on their website for students to freely download.

If you are a recipient of books for your students, please don’t forget to thank the partners!

The 2014 Book Give Away was Made Possible By the Colleges and Organizations Below

Christian Brothers University Embry Riddle Aeronautical University Missouri University of Science and Technology Tulsa Public Schools Boston Society of Civil Engineers University of Tennessee Knoxville Seaperch Northwestern State University Rowan University Louisiana Tech University University of Texas San Antonio Purdue University University of Evansville Auburn University Society of Women Engineers Indiana University Purdue University Idianapolis Weber State University

Know Your Community

I read the article below at first nodding my head in agreement. After a few minutes, I came to realize that while the message may be true for some girls, it’s not true for all. Marketing engineering, technology and computer science careers to women is not a one size fits all prospect.

The article states that we use pink, curly fonts, and butterflies too much to bridge the gender divide. That we assume we need to turn technology into something girly to make it attractive.

How not to attract women to coding: Make tech pink – SFGate.

I personally can relate to this. I grew up in the SF Bay Area and was not attracted to pink media. I was much happier playing with my brother’s LEGO than Barbie and I wouldn’t have been attracted to pink LEGO either. I wanted to be taken seriously and knew that wouldn’t happen if my game wasn’t on the same field as all the boys on the block. As I grew older and gained confidence, I became much more attracted to color. Today, I prefer the teal, purple and tangerine LEGO blocks. Is that because I understand that I don’t have to be like the boys to make a valuable contribution? That different contributions are not less valuable?

From promoting engineering all over the country and facilitating over 80 Mother/Daughter TEA Workshops (engineering events for Mother and Daughters) I can say, without equivocation, that one size does not fit all. Some girls love fancy script and a girly atmosphere and some prefer a gender neutral environment. This also varies greatly by geography and community.

The best approach to reaching girls is to know your community and have a sense for what is interesting, what has worked in the past and what hasn’t been tried. If pink flyers with curly fonts work in your community, keep using them. If you find you aren’t getting enough girls to sign up for your program(s), change how you market. Just like engineering design, marketing is also an evolving process. What worked last year might not work this year. Test your messages, evaluate and redesign if necessary.

 

100K Book Give-Away Round 2

ITAEIY4_300x450Last year, I joined forces with nine amazing Universities and organizations who wanted to promote engineering careers and motivate students to pursue engineering. Together, we gave away close to 8,000 copies of Is There an Engineer Inside You?, the leading book on engineering careers. 6,000 copies of the book were distributed across the nation and another 2000 were downloaded from partner websites. Student competitions and events that received books were BEST (Boosting Engineering Science and Technology), Seaperch, Ability One and the USA Science and Engineering Festival. Books were also donated to teachers and distributed at professional development workshops and conferences. Partners donated books to teachers, schools, guidance counselors and students in their local communities.

As we enter year two of the give-away, I hope to reach even more students and teachers by expanding the program and improving the book. Here’s how:

  1. Encouraging Partner Success – This year partners will be able to choose events in their community for book distribution. This can be a student or educator event. Up to 300 books can be requested. In addition, these books can have their logo on the front and/or back cover(s)! See samples.
  2. Expanding the Program – Last year, we gave away books to students at national student competitions. This year we will expand the recipients to educators and mentors who promote STEM and can disseminate the information to reach an even larger audience.  In addition to the books distributed in partner communities, I will also distribute to several key competitions and conferences.
  3. Improving the Book – I have written three new sections. Instead of covering 38 types of engineering and engineering technology, it now covers 41 types. New additions include: Industrial Engineering Technology, Fire Protection Engineering, and Fire Protection Engineering Technology.
  4. Each partner’s logo and website will be included on the cover page and in the acknowledgements.

The 100K Book Give-Away is an amazing program designed to help you easily expand your outreach, save money, save time, and provide a proven reference to students, parents, educators, counselors and mentors in your community. Deadline to become a partner is August 8, 2014.

More Information

Apply to receive books for your STEM event.

 

What’s Your Inspiration?

What started you on the path to engineering or your current career? Can you identify a moment, person or thing that made you change lanes, take a turn or stopped you in your tracks?

17 years old

17 years old

Last year, I gave a keynote in Kansas City for Science Pioneers. A few minutes into it, I talked about my first car – how much fun it was to try to fix it, the book that made it possible, the Flower Power mechanics and how I knew I wanted a cleaner and more diverse career. That car was a 1962 VW Bug and lead to one of the biggest ah-ha moments in my life.

From wanting it to drive better, I learned that I had mechanical aptitude, I could rebuild an engine if the instructions were good enough, troubleshooting was fun, and a book could change your life.

holdingbugLast week, to my delight, a small box that contained a shiny red VW Bug came in the mail. As I looked at it and took my trip down memory lane, I remembered how much that car inspired me. Without that experience, how would I have discovered my mechanical ability? Would I have this love affair with books? Would I be writing this today without that experience?

Thank you Paul for reminding me about how I got here and encouraging me to continue my own journey. We are all inspired to become who we are by something or someone. Make some time for yourself to remember, appreciate and share the experience. You never know who you may inspire with your story.

 

iPhone app for Engr and Engr Tech Careers

ITAEIYapplogoBrand new in iTunes is the app “Is There an Engineer Inside You?

This is a great resource for teachers, administrators, parents and students. It covers 40 different types of engineering and engineering technology degrees with videos, job descriptions, salary expectations, scholarships and a school locator.

It’ll help teachers, administrators and parents understand the differences between 40 types of engineering and the opportunities available.

It’ll help students figure out what kind of engineer they want to be.

So head over the the App Store and get your copy. It’ll be the best $2 you’ve spent in a while.

And, please Share far and wide!

Engineering Exploration Day

sumner4 sumner3 sumner2 sumner1Last weekend I had the privilege of facilitating an Engineering Exploration Day for a school district in Washington State. If you follow my work you know about the Mother Daughter TEA (Technology Engineering Aptitude) workshops. In the Mother Daughter TEA workshop, Moms and their middle school daughters complete engineering projects together and learn about valuable, high-wage opportunities in the engineering industry. They hear about how women are impacting the field and get insight into career opportunities they may enjoy. The Mother/ Daughter TEA event was founded to encourage young women to take an interest in pursuing a career in engineering.

Every year, I hear from parents that also want their boys to have the same opportunity. As a result, last weekend we debuted “Engineering Exploration Day.” In this workshop, we had middle school girls and boys, moms and dads. We stuck to the same model of four hours on Saturday morning and built cranes, flingers and boats. The workshop moved along quickly and everyone stayed engaged. We had a great time.

If you are trying to recruit for your GTT, STEM 101 or any other engineering classes, this is a great workshop to hold because by the end of it, you’ll have the parental support at home that is so critical to students making good choices.

More Information…

Passport to Engineering

Passport to EngineeringBig news today! At long last, Passport to Engineering is here!

Passport to Engineering will help students understand engineering and engineering technology in a whole new way.

In Passport to Engineering, students will watch a short video on a specific discipline, take a short test and when they pass the test, they’ll receive a stamp in their passport. Get all 33 stamps and they’ll receive a certificate of travel proving that they’ve been to all of the engineering and engineering technology destinations.

Passport to Engineering includes:

  • Flights to 27 engineering and 6 engineering technology destinations. Includes:
    • a 2-4 minute video
    • career handout with career description, salary information, job outlook, industries with the highest levels of employment, and the top paying industries
    • a list of ABET programs/schools for that discipline
    • a review quiz (4 questions)
    • Passport Stamp upon successful completion of review
    • discipline specific puzzles and games.
  • Flights based on what you like to do – this option offers career track suggestions.
  • A personality test to gauge if engineering is a good fit.
  • An academic challenge to gauge your academic readiness.
  • Engineering career books for further investigation.
  • Engineering videos (Engineers Can Do Anything, Women in Engineering and The Road Ahead).

 

Online Access – This option allows you to get going right away. Purchase courses individually or as a package. Covers 33 different types of engineering and engineering technology. Two free courses can get you started quickly.

Try it out and let me know how you like it!

 

Self-Confidence is Key

gleerhThe reasons that we hold events, competitions or camps may often seem so obvious – we want to recruit into our programs or schools or lead students toward their untapped potential (a.k.a. – a better future). I read that robotics has become so popular because it’s an integrated and engaging approach to all things STEM plus teamwork, problem solving, collaboration, and innovation.

It’s difficult to measure your program’s success with middle school students because they are so far from college. Without diligent tracking, you may never know if your program influenced them to pursue a STEM education.

The softer reasons that we hold events are also because we want to tell students that we believe in them or that we believe they can do it. It’s great for their self-esteem to know that they have a champion on their side. When you believe in yourself and your abilities, what is there to stop you from doing exactly what you want with your life and making the perfect career for yourself?

 

Five Things Teachers Can Do Right Now

I’ve received many emails lately about Engineers Week and what it’s all about. To briefly summarize, Engineers Week (Eweek) is always during the president’s birthday week. So this year, it’s Feb. 16-22. Eweek statistics show that last year, 40,000 engineers visited classrooms to educate students about the field of engineering. Eweek extrapolates that those engineers reached 5 million students! There are only 20 days until Eweek and it’s not too late to get involved.

Below, I have provided suggestions for teachers to use Eweek as a special time to really educate, inspire, motivate and/or cajole interest in engineering. It’s a time to celebrate the profession and the amazing advances and achievements of the field. It’s also the perfect opportunity to get people to help you in this mission.

Five things that teachers can do right now.

  1. The first thing I would recommend to get an engineer to come to your classroom is to open the phone book and call a local firm that has a yellow page ad. Explain that you are a teacher and would like an engineer to talk to your kids for Engineers Week. You can give them the link to Eweek (www.discovere.org). Most firms benefit from the exposure so you might be surprised at the results. If they seem resistant, just try another.
  2. Put your state in the search engine to find local events in your area.
  3. There is a good chance that in a classroom of 30 students, at least one or two will have parents that are engineers. You may be able to get the parent engineers to talk to your class.
  4. Call your local college of engineering and see if you can arrange a tour or see if they are doing anything special to celebrate the week. Don’t forget about junior colleges and vocational schools! They are also great resources.
  5. Contact your local engineering society to find out what they are doing. For example, the IEEE, ASME, ASCE, NSPE and many others have state branches that are independently run by engineers in your state. This may be an excellent opportunity to make a lasting connection. Just put (ieee.org) or (asme.org) or (asce.org) or (nspe.org) into your browser and search for local or state chapters of the organization. When you find your state contact, write to the president asking for help.

What are you doing for Eweek? Questions, suggestions? Post them here!

Outreach Communication

For us engineering education advocates, when we want to inspire students, the problem isn’t about finding information on engineering careers, locating hands-on activities, or helping students decide which college to attend. It’s more about figuring out:

  1. What is appealing to students (what drives this generation);
  2. How to present the information;
  3. Getting that tailored information to them (books, DVDs, hands-on projects, posters, websites, etc.);
  4. Answering their questions (Will I like engineering? How hard will I have to work?, Is it worth the hard work?, etc.).

To refresh your memory, The National Academy of Engineering conducted a major study a few years ago to address the messages we portray to pre-college students about engineering. Changing the Conversation, the result of the study, states that young people want jobs that make a difference.  Additional recommendations from the research study are as follows:

  • Stop reinforcing the images of “nerdy and boring”
  • Stop focusing on math and science as the needed inputs and instead focus on the outputs, career opportunities, and making a difference in the world
  • Use the word “create” not “build”
  • Use images of people, not things: especially avoid using gears and mechanical looking things
  • Use the following five words in describing engineering: discovery, design, imagination, innovation, contribution
  • Describe engineer as creative problem solvers, essential to health, happiness and safety
  • Emphasize that engineers shape the future

Have you been using the recommendations? With Engineers Week on the horizon, right now is the perfect time to figure out when and how to jump on the bandwagon.

 

The Engineering Look

What does an engineer look like? You can put on a lab coat and people automatically think doctor or scientist. A headset implies telephone operator, sales person or receptionist. A space suit screams Astronaut. Pilots, firefighters, police people, photographers, teachers, construction people, farmers and many other occupations have a certain “look”. But what does an engineer look like?

One problem with determining “the look” is that the field is so broad. Engineers design, manufacture, build, research, write, investigate and present their findings. It’s easy to think of engineers designing rides at Disney or crawling around inside of a bridge to check for stress cracks. We know what that looks like but what about the engineers that don’t design things? How do we show an engineer that is checking air quality or researching new and safer ways to dispose of compact fluorescent light bulbs?

Is anyone having a fashion/runway show for eweek next month?

Get ready for 2014!

With 2014 right around the corner, it’s time for all of of us to reflect on our 2013 accomplishments and areas that we’d like to improve.

My professional New Year’s resolutions always looks something like this:

  1. Find new ways to communicate the cool factor of an engineering education.
  2. Conspire with other engineering evangelists to find new ways to communicate the cool factor.
  3. Communicate the cool factor to teachers, counselors and parents.
  4. Spread the joy.
  5. Repeat often.

Although my list defies resolution etiquette by not being very specific, it works for me. Sometimes I also add in the margin my definition of “cool factor” just in case I learn new things about engineering and somehow overlay the old information instead of adding to it.

Margin notes: Cool Factor = An engineering education teaches you how to think. You learn analytical, logical and problem-solving skills that help in everything that you do. Consider engineering education as a launching pad to become anything that you want to be. Spatial visualization, problem solving, teamwork, communication, and creativity can be transferred and applied to any field and are excellent tools for the future – whatever your future may be. Once you finish an engineering degree, you really feel like you can do anything.

This is how I do my part in making a better world. If people can spend 8-10 hours a day doing something they enjoy, the world will be a better place.

Happy Holidays!

100,000 Book Give Away!

ITAEIY4_300x450It’s my dream to see my first book, Is There an Engineer Inside You?: A Comprehensive Guide to Career Decisions in Engineering in the hands of every student that could benefit so I’ve decided that over the next 5 years, I’m going to give away 100,000 or more copies of the Fourth Edition to all students that want to study engineering or engineering technology! This will include both printed and downloadable copies.

I’ve poured my heart and soul into writing this book. It’s my best selling publication. And yes, I want to give it away. What could be better than knowing it is helping so many students make an informed decision?

Do you want to be a part of this? I need sponsors to help me with the production costs and events that are willing to allow me to give each student a book at their national competition.

The advantages for sponsoring include ad space, free books and a custom downloadable copy for your website visitors.

The books will be given away books at competitions such as the USA Science and Engineering Festival, FIRST Robotics, Mathcounts, Future City, BEST Robotics, Bridge Building Competition, Design Squad, Solar Car Challenge, ToyChallenge, Seaperch and/or any other national competition that throws its name into my hat if I can find a way to pay for it.

I’m already 1/4 of the way there in making this happen for the 2013-2014 school year. Please help me reach my goal of giving away 100,000 books! If you are reading this blog, I know you care about engineering education. Reach out to those that you know will help! We can do amazing things by working together.

I can’t think of anything more worthy than celebrating each student’s desire to enroll in engineering or engineering technology school.

More information on being a sponsor or if you are a competition that would like to give away books to our future engineers.

2012 Poster Contest Results!

The EESC’s 2012 poster contest had two themes.

  1. Women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and
  2. Grand Challenges for Engineering.

Students could enter one or both up to three times. Winning posters had to be fun, motivational and inspire students to pursue a degree in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).

The results are in!

2012 Poster Contest Winners


Women in STEM Category

1st Place – Anna Hershey

2nd Place – Alex Frashuer

3rd Place – Alicia Tran and Teresa Gleason

Honorable Mention – Theo Howard, Joe Stohr, and Michelle Anderson


Grand Challenges for Engineering Category

1st Place – Julie Rasos

2nd Place – Joe Costa

3rd Place – Emma Bonfiglio, Rachel Welch and Teresa Gleason

Honorable Mention – Morgan Carrier, Blair Lewellyn, Michelle Anderson, Helen Cheng and Jeffrey Low, Amanda Zuschin, Amanda Holl, and Jennifer Qualls

 

Congratulations to all the winners!

Tennis Ball Design Jobs

In tennis, ball design is a complex subject and a full time job for engineers at tennis ball companies. For tournament play, different court surfaces determine the best type of ball to use. Grass courts such as Wimbledon are the fastest, closely followed by hard, green clay and red clay courts. Grass courts are considered fast because the surface creates little friction. Clay courts are slow because the surface creates more friction.

Balls are also classified as fast, medium or slow. An important consideration for ball speed is the height and type of fabric on the outside. Balls with more fuzz have more air resistance, travel more slowly, and in rainy conditions, the cover material fluffs and further slows the game. Serious players use different felt thicknesses in different altitudes to increase or decrease the air resistance. If the felt thickness flattens in the middle of the game from intense volleying or wear, the ball will go faster too.

Professional players can hit serves as fast as 135 mph. When a ball is hit with that much force, an engineer must understand what happens during the impact. How does the ball deform and how does that affect its resulting performance characteristics? After considerable deformation, can the ball be used the next day? Will it offer the same spin ability or, more importantly, will it impact the present match?

To answer some of these questions, the United States Tennis Association (USTA) uses a “Stevens machine” to compress the tennis balls. Each ball is squash-tested, or compressed, for 10 seconds and then checked for deformation. If the ball does not return to a round shape, it is rejected by the USTA.

Engineers also often test tennis ball aerodynamics in a wind tunnel, which blows air over the tennis ball to determine how the forces act on it. For example, if the tunnel blows air over the tennis ball at 135 mph it simulates a ball served at 135 mph. Wind tunnels provide engineers with important aerodynamic data that would be close to impossible to obtain any other way.

According to Penn, a tennis ball begins its life as a mound of powder that forms the core. The type of play the ball is made for determines the ingredients in the core. For example, the extended life ball has titanium mixed into the powder to allow it to last longer. The beginner’s ball has a softer core to allow the ball to stay in play longer and give the player more control.

The powder is shaped into pellets and placed in a mold that makes half of the ball. Two halves are glued together, or fused, and a machine injects one atmosphere of air pressure. Finally, the ball cover, made of nylon, cotton, felt and wool, is bonded to the core. The balls are then packaged and shipped to the stores.

Tennis ball manufacturing companies most often hire mechanical, materials, chemical, aerospace and manufacturing engineers.

To read more, about careers in the sporting goods industry, pick up a copy of High Tech Hot Shots: Careers in Sports Engineering.