Taylor Tucker: new doctoral engineering student, auto mechanic, and children's book author
When Taylor Tucker joins the ISE Ph.D. program in Fall 2022, she will bring with her a Bachelor's in Engineering Mechanics, a Master's in Education, a research portfolio, a year in industry, and publication credits including at least one children's book.
Tucker's research is in the field of engineering education, and at ISE she will continue with Teaching Assistant Professor and Product Design Lab Director Molly Goldstein, who earned her own Ph.D. in Engineering Education at Purdue in 2018.
Tucker became interested in Engineering Education while an undergraduate engineering student. She was introduced to the field by Associate Professor Emma Mercier, with whom Tucker would go on to receive her Master's in Education. Tucker says of Mercier, "she's been very influential in my journey into this field."
Tucker became specifically interested in task design and how to improve the ways that students collaborate in groups. So in the course of her academic career, she went from participating in such groupwork to studying it.
Disappointingly to her, most of the collaborative tasks she found herself studying were limited to either a paper task or a digital task.
"They didn't have a hands-on component," Tucker says, "and I am a big believer in hands-on learning. So ultimately what I want to see in the future of engineering education is more opportunity for effective experiential design in lower-level courses."
By observing Goldstein's Systems Engineering 101 class—a course where students physically dissect a product—Tucker was able to accumulate data on hands-on groupwork, and build a collaboration with Goldstein that has drawn her back to The Grainger College of Engineering and ISE to complete her formal education.
Tucker's belief in the power of "hands-on" learning may come from her personal history as an auto enthusiast. Specifically, she owns a 1993 Mazda Miata with which she loves to tinker, a form of hands-on learning. Tucker fears that the art of auto mechanics may be becoming less commonly understood in the American household.
So when Tucker met Teaching Associate Jenny Amos in Bioengineering, another Engineering Education specialist, who leads Engineering Ambassadors, who were looking for students to produce a children's book they could take into local schools for use in mentoring children, Tucker (who also loves to write) volunteered. In collaboration with graphic design student and illustrator Nicole Dowling, Tucker created a character named Jenny who has a knack for automotive. The book is entitled Jenny Saves a Convertible. "More broadly," she says, "the narrative focuses on being curious about the world around you and pursuing your interests." The book was originally published in a limited run by Engineering Ambassadors, and is now available through Amazon.com. Dowling and Tucker enjoyed working together so much, a second book is in the works. Tucker says, "She and I just clicked. It was really an amazing experience working with her."
At ISE, Tucker will continue her interdisciplinary collaboration with both Goldstein in The Grainger College of Engineering and Mercier in the College of Education. She says of this college-spanning teamwork, "It's been really interesting to see how it can work together and be so symbiotic, even though they are seemingly such different fields".
If we're lucky, when she comes to campus, she will also bring her Miata. If the university were ever to offer a doctoral fellowship that included campus parking, Taylor Tucker deserves a nomination.