Meet Margee Pipaliya, an international student from India, majoring in aerospace engineering. Margee joined Frith as an undergraduate lab assistant as a junior. After college, Margee plans to do the accelerated masters degree in aerospace engineering here at Virginia Tech.

How did you find out about the Frith First-Year Makerspace?

I wanted to work there since my freshman year, the ULAs were so helpful and I loved spending time there. Sometime around my junior year I got an email from my advisor that the Frith lab was hiring. I really love helping people, so I knew I had to apply. 

What was it about Frith that kept you there so long?

I loved the working environment, I had a lot of freedom, and it was like a safe space for me. Also, helping freshmen with a lot of the machines that they were not familiar with, and giving them the training to use them, it made me feel good. I liked being involved in their projects, giving them tips and helping them be successful. Also, as a freshman we never got to finish our spring semester projects, so in a way, being a part of their projects as a ULA, I get to be a part of what I missed. 

Are there any memorable moments or lessons that you learned from the Frith lab that you can apply to everyday life?

I would say learning how to work in a professional environment. There are a lot of safety hazards in a lab you have to pay attention to, and especially teach those to the first-year students who are unaware of them. Even just things like putting up long hair and making sure you aren’t cutting your finger when operating the machinery. It’s important to be aware of your surroundings. 

What will you miss most about being a ULA?

Laser cutters. I joined the Frith lab for laser cutters. Frith lab has two big laser cutters. I love the process of making things with the machines. I worked in a lab sometimes at home, so I knew I wanted to continue the hands-on experience when I got to college. When I found out about the firth lab, I was so excited. I’ll miss it a lot.

Looking back at your time as a ULA, how do you think your role made an impact on first-year students?

I remember one student specifically – I gave him the Frith training. He became very familiar with me, so he would ask me any questions he had. He felt very comfortable messaging me things like, “Hey, I don’t know how this should work on my project.” I feel like I was able to help anyone in any way I could, and I wanted to, because my transition had been so well supported and I wanted to be that for other students.

How are you going to use this experience to implement it into your future career?

I don’t know if I would be as prepared or trained without the machines and resources offered in the Frith lab for us to use. So obviously, the knowledge of how to use these machines will help me in any future career. It also made me a lot more confident and overall better at using SOLIDWORKS and AutoCAD.

Q&A written by Megan Reese, Writing Intern for Engineering Education