As part of Science Odyssey, we are interviewing a variety of STEM innovators to investigate pathways into STEM and to discuss the future of STEM learning and careers.
Kari McCabe has one of the coolest jobs we can think of, Kari builds amusment park rides. As a mechanical engineer at Dynamic Structures, she designs, oversees the building, tests and programs entertainment adventures like rides, motion theatre and self-guided vehicles. Kari had a natural interest in math and fixing things, but she thinks there are many reasons she decided to study and pursue a career in engineering, not the least of which were strong mentorship and encouragement. Kari is a member of the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of British Columbia (APEGBC).
We asked Kari about her career and what gets her excited about STEM education.
What sparked your interest and eventual career in engineering?
I don’t think it was any one thing that sparked my interest. It could’ve been the magic school bus or Bill Nye the science guy as a child, it could have been the assortment of toys that weren’t male or female specific but just came apart so you could see how they work, it could have been that my dad is an engineer or that my grandfather had a workshop in his basement, it could’ve been my teachers always saying I was good at math and encouraging me to take the pre-requisite courses for engineering. In reality it was probably all of the above.
What role does mentorship play in engaging youth in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math)?
I think that it doesn’t necessarily take someone who is good at math and science to encourage STEM. When someone asks how something works you could tell them how it works (if you know) or you could ask them how they think it works which encourages them to think more deeply about a subject, come up with their own theories and start innovating.
Did you have a mentor who supported you in your education/career pathway or otherwise?
My family has always supported and guided me along through my education and towards this career path.
My grandfather had a workshop when I was young and encouraged me to help him build and fix things. I’m not sure how much I really helped but it was always fun being able to play with all the tools and have real hands on experience with using them.
My parents encouraged me to read about topics that interested me and to do well in school. My father would always ask me how things work I think just to see what I’d come up with. He would also put little logic puzzles in my lunch which at the time was very annoying. As an engineer it was mostly him that pushed me towards a career in engineering.
After graduating and working for a while you really start to see how much more there is to learn. I’ve met some wonderful and brilliant people in the field who I am always learning from who I would also consider good mentors.
What did you want to be when you were small? Did you plan your current career path?
I definitely did not plan my career path. I think like many children I wanted to be a bunch of different things. I remember wanting to be a veterinarian because I loved puppies and an archaeologist because mummies are neat but then not taking any biology in highschool which would be required for both of those. Instead I played to my strengths and took a bunch of math and sciences which led to applying to the engineering departments of the universities.
Tell us about your work with Dynamic Structures. How does your job promote greater STEM learning or understanding?
In my work I design, test and program theme park rides. I mostly work with motion theatres and have travelled around the world making sure they are safe to ride and open to the public. I think in this industry people always want something new and exciting which will always push boundaries and bring interesting new design challenges. I feel like I learn something new every day.
What do you think the future of STEM looks like in BC?
I think the future of STEM looks great! The internet has all the knowledge at our fingertips and people are starting shared workshop spaces to share tools and ideas. Anyone and everyone can get involved and encourage innovative new ideas through sites like kickstarter. For BC in particular our innovations may veer towards our major industries such as forestry or mining or maybe housing issues or better transportation. It’s a global culture though and STEM is all about sharing ideas for better solutions. Personally I’m super excited about the hyperloop.
What is Science World’s role in promoting and supporting STEM learning and careers in BC?
Science world is wonderful for promoting a hands on understanding of physics and how things work. Even the look of the building pulls people in from the street to learn about science. They are very good at supporting the community as well like during the march for science.
Who is APEGBC?
APEGBC is a not-for-profit organization that supports and promotes the engineering and geoscience professions as a trusted partner and progressive regulator that serves the public good. APEGBC is a signatory of the BC Science Charter, and active participant in the BC Science Outreach community.
Build and test your own structures
Today at TELUS World of Science we are hosting Earthquake Engineering Day to investigate building technology and the strength of structures. Investigate more at home or school with Earthquake-proof structures from Science World Resources.