When talking about resistors, capacitors, diodes and engineering, you would expect to be discussing laptops or other electronics. But for Kettering University Mechanical Engineering faculty member Rebecca Reck, they can also be found dangling from her ears or hanging around her neck.
In an environment where Reck, a visiting assistant professor, is teaching control systems or working as an engineer, she found a way to channel her creative side by making jewelry out of electrical parts.
“It became an outlet of creativity for me,” Reck said. “I am always looking for ways to express my uniqueness and femininity in the world of engineering.”
She was at the Society of Women Engineers annual conference in 2010 when she saw another engineer making the jewelry and it immediately caught her eye. The more she looked at it, the more she realized it was something she could make herself. And now, several years later, Reck has made multiple pairs of earrings and necklaces to wear and share with family.
“Once people realize my jewelry is made out of electrical parts, they do a double take,” Reck said. “Especially from other women in engineering, I’ve gotten nothing but compliments.”
Reck spent eight years as a Rockwell Collins as a systems engineer, studied Electrical Engineering as an undergrad and started at Kettering in 2016.
Engineering and electrical parts are ingrained in her day-to-day life, so being able to take a "brain break" from all of that to make the jewelry helps her find balance and think about things differently, a lesson she hopes to pass on to her students.
What she learns from making the jewelry goes beyond the craft and creativity. There are lessons that every engineer can walk away with and lessons she plans to incorporate into her classes.
“Creativity is an important skill for any engineer, whether you are expressing it through a hobby or in your work,” Reck said. “As we face bigger challenges from global warming to food shortage, the same thinking that has got us here is not necessarily going to give us the best solution going forward.”
Getting creative and thinking outside of the box is something that all students, engineers and problems solvers everywhere should be doing.
“Being able to think of new applications is a useful skill for anybody. Scarcity isn’t a problem in the U.S., but what sets you apart in the marketplace is having something unique that draws people to your product,” she said. “It’s a life skill to be able to walk away with. It’s important to look at things in different ways because sometimes just a slight tweak to an existing thing can make it more useful or have another purpose.”