Meagan Hughes, a graduate teaching assistant in Purdue Polytechnic’s Department of Computer Graphics Technology, said Project Lead The Way (PLTW) sparked her interest in graphics, 3-D modeling, and coding. The college credits that she earned through PLTW helped provide the flexibility she needed to study overseas three times while still completing her undergraduate degree in four years. Hughes is studying under Nathan Hartman, Dauch Family Professor for Advanced Manufacturing and director of the Purdue University Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) Center of Excellence.
We asked Hughes about the role PLTW played in her education.
Question: What was your undergraduate major, and why did you choose it?
I majored in computer graphics technology (CGT) at Purdue. I had a specialization in virtual product integration, which is essentially 3-D modeling. I chose this degree because of PLTW. Introduction to Engineering Design was my favorite class. Thanks to PLTW, I already had basic knowledge to start out in my major.
Question: Why did you choose to pursue a master’s degree in CGT here?
The opportunity was actually presented to me by my professor, Dr. Hartman. He gave me the opportunity to continue my education while working for him here in the Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) lab.
PLM integrates people, data, business processes and other information. It makes sure that a product is getting through a company in the most efficient way possible, eliminating cost, time and waste. Here in the PLM lab, we work with different manufacturing companies on research that will help them grow.
Question: What is one of your favorite aspects in your major?
My favorite thing about my major is the faculty. As an undergraduate and graduate student, I’ve had classes with most of the CGT professors. Without their guidance, expertise and the opportunities they have presented me, I wouldn’t be where I am today. This past summer, thanks to Dr. Hartman, I was able to travel to Japan and present a paper that a co-worker and I wrote at a conference. The opportunities I’ve been given through CGT have been incredible.
Question: How did Project Lead The Way courses in high school help prepare you for college?
PLTW gave me a leg up when it came to knowledge on areas such as 3-D modeling and coding. I attended Jac-Cen-Del, a very small school in southeastern Indiana, and PLTW was the only option I had to learn these types of things. Without PLTW, I wouldn’t have been introduced to these sorts of subjects until my first year of college. Instead, I got to learn them in the 8th grade as a 13-year-old.
I’ll always remember Mr. Thole, my favorite teacher. He was my PLTW teacher throughout the main courses. He was always so full of energy and excited about whatever we were learning. He also pushed me to do my best and gave me inspiration to use my creativity with the projects we were assigned.
With PLTW just starting out at my school, we weren’t able to get college credit for the first few classes. I attended the Southeastern Career Center for three classes of PLTW, and I obtained nine credits for it. They transferred over to Purdue and I was able to begin my college venture with these.
With these credits (along with a couple others from advanced placement classes I took), I was easily able to study abroad three times as an undergraduate. Many people find it difficult to study abroad and still graduate in four years. I was able to spend two Mays in Costa Rica and Greece, and a full semester in New Zealand.
In addition to studying abroad, I spent summers doing research here at Purdue and building up the photography/videography business that I own. It was real-world experience that I found to be very beneficial. Another reason I decided to get my graduate degree was to get work experience in the field in which I will be looking for a job.
Question: When you have free time from studying, in what ways are you involved on campus? Are you in any student organizations?
As an undergraduate, I was involved in many organizations, including HORIZONS, Women in Technology, Purdue Dance Marathon, Purdue AIESEC and intramural sports. As a graduate student, I still play basketball as an intramural sport.
Question: You’re a graduate research assistant. What are your research interests? Is there a specific research project you could tell us about?
Over the past two years of grad school, I have been both a research and teaching assistant. As a teaching assistant, I am assisting Dr. Hartman in both the intermediate geometric modeling course and the senior capstone courses. As a research assistant here in the PLM lab, we work with different manufacturing companies like Cummins, Lockheed Martin and Rolls Royce.
For my thesis research, I am working with PLTW teachers, asking them about the learning management systems (LMS) that both PLTW and their home schools use. With the data collected from interviewing the teachers, I am hoping to find the issues and discrepancies that they face when using them. Based on the issues, I will see if what we are using here in lab can fix these issues. Overall, can PLM help with document management within the education system?
Question: What would you tell a high school student who is thinking about choosing one of Purdue Polytechnic’s majors?
Purdue Polytechnic has many different majors. If you are looking for something in the graphics, technology or engineering fields, there is definitely something here that you will fit into.