November 21, 2012

Dalton High graduate finds place in engineering world

By Lindsey Derrick
Dalton Public Schools contributor

— Engineering is a career that is usually associated with mostly males, but 22-year-old Ana Torres got past that stereotype and found her home in the profession.

Torres said there were usually around three girls in her engineering classes at Dalton High School.

“I thought it was just for guys,” Torres said. “It was just something girls didn’t do.”

“Out of my 150 students, 90 percent are male,” said DHS engineering teacher Mark Hines.

There are four classes in Hines’ subject. Intro to Engineering and Design is the first level, Computer Integrated Manufacturing is next, Civil Engineering and Architecture is the third level, and the senior level class is Principles of Engineering (Robotics).

Torres said ending up in Hines’ class was not what she expected. For her dual seal diploma, Torres needed to pick up another class. All other classes were full, so she was placed in the first level engineering class.

“I had no choice but to stay,” Torres said. “I ended up enjoying the classes. They were fun.”

“It gives them a taste of engineering,” Hines said of his classes. “All kinds of students take this class. It enriches the advanced and pulls up most others.”

Hines’ classes are not for the faint of heart or the lethargic. Each comes with a heavy workload.

“Students go into college, and they’re in an engineering class that weeds people out,” Hines said. “This is that class.”

During her senior year, Torres took advantage of the opportunity to go to school and work for Mohawk.

“I would go to school from 8 a.m. to noon and then work from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.,” she said.

Torres said when she actually got a taste of engineering in the workplace, she knew that was where she was meant to be.

“The exposure decided my path,” she said. “I always knew I would go to college, but had no idea the path I’d take. I was all over the place. I was in limbo.”

After her first position at Mohawk, she moved to Energy Management. In May, she left to do an internship at Morgan Stanley in Baltimore, Md.

When she returned, Mohawk wanted her back and she is now in the company’s environmental department. Torres helps with waste management  and many other things, which tie back to her old position with Energy Management.

Torres said one thing that helps her is top-of-the-line software. The engineering program at DHS is also known for its amount of high-tech equipment, some that big industries don’t even have yet. Hines’ classes have AutoCAD, a program for drafting and design, as well as a 3D printer that makes prototypes.

“This is the first stop when visitors come by,” Hines said of his high-tech classroom.

Hines’ students leave his class with a full portfolio that they can take and present at colleges or job interviews.

Torres will graduate from Southern Polytechnic State University in December. Along with pursuing her career in the energy management aspect of engineering, she wants to be a mentor for people who are undecided about their future.

“I want to talk to the girls that have that perception of engineering,” Torres said of the idea that it’s just for males. “If I had that idea, others do, too.”

Torres spoke at the Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce’s annual banquet about how she has benefited from having hands-on experience in the workforce while getting her education.

“It was tough,” Torres said of working while going to school, “but I got to see why we learned things. I could relate back to the book stuff and apply it. It was an extraordinary experience.”

Torres wants to help others find their right direction, and she firmly believes hands-on experience in the workplace can help.

“I got a glimpse with Mr. Hines,” said Torres of her destined career path, “but once I got the exposure at Mohawk, I knew.”