Edie Kocher-Cowan first learned about engineering through her dad, a chemical engineer.
Before her senior year in high school, she developed her interest while attending a summer camp called Women in Engineering at Michigan Technological University, where she was exposed to the various engineering fields and participated in problem-solving activities.
“I was really drawn to mechanical engineering because there were two mechanical students showing us their senior projects. One made a robotic arm, and the other made a bicycle that could store excess kinetic energy in a battery. I thought both projects were really interesting,” she said.
Kocher-Cowan selected College of DuPage for its strong Engineering program.
“Because College of DuPage is a two-year school, I received a lot more opportunities for hands-on experiences. I was able to help design and build two robots and competed in the Midwestern Robotic Design Competition at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where we won an award for our robot, and the NASA Robotic Mining Competition at the Kennedy Space Center. Both competitions helped me gain real-life experience working with others and working in the manufacturing lab.”
She also liked the smaller class sizes at COD, the cost and the fact that it was close to home. In addition, she took advantage of opportunities outside of the classroom, such as being part of the Engineering and Technology Club.
“It was the place where you get real engineering experience, and we had the Technical Education Center as a wonderful resource,” she said.
Kocher-Cowan transferred to Iowa State University and earned her bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering. Because her career goal is to work with robots, she completed an internship at Vizient Manufacturing Solutions, Inc., an industry leader in robotics integration solutions.
“The hands-on skills I learned at COD made me stand out at the Iowa State University career fair,” she said. “I learned how to use a mill and lathe through the COD Engineering and Technology Club, and I took two welding courses at COD for fun.”
The hands-on skills I learned at COD made me stand out.
Because of the pandemic, Kocher-Cowan decided to take a break to determine what to do next. She ended up returning to COD for a class in clothing construction because she always wanted to learn to sew. That led to another degree.
“Engineering really goes hand-in-hand with fashion design because you need to know how to create technical drawings with computer-aided design, then transform the drawing to a flat pattern or a blueprint, then make the first prototype or first muslin, and then make the final garment out of the actual fabric,” she said. “We also experimented with laser cutting fabric in the Technical Education Center! I love that I also got to use my creative side to figure out the shape, color and silhouette that I wanted.”
Having earned her Associate in Applied Science degree in Fashion Design, she plans to look for an engineering job while doing fashion on the side. Her dream would be to make custom prom and wedding dresses.
Kocher-Cowan strongly recommends that students take advantage of the many opportunities that COD offers as well as network with their peers.
“My advice is to find a group of people to work with on a regular basis. That is a huge help with your studies,” she said. “Also, for students considering engineering, take a manufacturing or welding class of some sort. I still use this hands-on experience to be a better engineer.”