San Dieguito High School Senior Preps for Career in Engineering

By Stephanie Stevens

 Stephen Posner
Age: 18
School: San Dieguito High School Academy

High school senior Stephen Posner is ahead of the game. With plans to pursue a career in mechanical engineering, he understands that knowing computer-aided design (CAD) software is going to be an essential part of his college and work life. When he got the chance to take a SolidWorks course and learn the leading 3D design software used by mechanical engineers from Braxton Carter, an expert in reverse engineering, Stephen jumped at the opportunity. And not only did he keep up with his adult classmates, he also took the next step and got certified in SolidWorks.

Stephen's career ambitions couldn't be better when it comes to opportunity and compensation. The job outlook for mechanical engineers is fantastic, with an estimated 25,300 new openings by 2026 and an average wage of $84,190, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics. With the addition of SolidWorks to his skill set, he's on his way to a rewarding career.

How did you learn about this course or program?
My dad works at a company that repairs gas turbine engines and they worked with Braxton Carter to reverse engineer some parts. Braxton shared that he teaches engineering courses at UC San Diego Extension, including SolidWorks. I have current and previous experience with SolidWorks at my high school from my robotics team. Still, I never had the time to learn the full capabilities of the software, including being able to take the exam. So, when my dad mentioned that I should take the class, I went for it.

How did attending this course or program change your perspective on attending college?
Rather than changing my perspective of college, the class has changed my perspective on online college courses. I originally thought that taking online courses -- while convenient for those who aren't local or who need a more flexible schedule -- had lower standards than taking regular, in-person college courses. But taking this class has changed my mind about that and instead makes me think of online courses as being the same quality of teaching or learning as going to a college or university. That makes a big difference in my seeing online classes as being a viable alternative.

Can you tell us about preparing for and taking the Certified SolidWorks Associate (CSWA) exam?
To prepare for the exam, Braxton assigned the class multiple tutorials to work on learning the basics of SolidWorks. After that, he gave us multiple assemblies and parts to create from drawings similar to the exam. 

The CSWA exam gives you three hours to complete fourteen questions that consist of creating parts and assessing their mass, or creating assemblies and finding the correct center of gravity. The exam is very straightforward, and thanks in part to all the practice work we were assigned in the class with Braxton, it made the exam very easy and quick to finish.

What colleges are you hoping to attend, or have you applied to?
I am going to MiraCosta College after I graduate. After I get enough credits, I hope to be eligible to transfer to a university. I want to either go to UC San Diego, University of Colorado Boulder, or possibly Purdue, with UC San Diego being my first choice.

What will your major be?
I plan to major in some type of general Mechanical Engineering or Aerospace Engineering.

What career would you like to pursue once you graduate college?
I hope to either work in the defense industry, the biotech industry or whatever piques my interest in engineering.

Would you recommend the program or course you took to others? If so, why?
I recommend the SolidWorks course to those seeking a career in engineering (mostly mechanical) or who need to learn the software for a job they already have. The class will give them daily, hands-on practice in what I consider the best CAD software I know, and earning their CSWA certification will also look good on job applications.

Will this course play a major factor in your college applications?
I hope so, but I'll have to see based on which university I attend after community college. For someone who is applying to universities in the engineering field who needs to know CAD, I think it definitely will be a big factor. Taking this course will prove their knowledge and skill in working in the field.

What advice would you give to other students a year or two younger than you if they plan to make the most of their education and go to college?
My advice would be to plan on either making good grades and keeping yourself on track to help you get into the university or college of choice. Or, to save money, start at a community college and take the required courses, so you're able to take the next step up and transfer to a four-year college or university.

What advice would you give to your younger self about preparing for a career? Let us know in the comments below.


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