Finding a creative outlet in an engineering school

Photo by Casey Gomez

Tech, the nickname for Georgia Institute of Technology. A nickname most are proud of. A school rooted in providing top tier education in any STEM field you could imagine. But therein lies the problem: we pride ourselves so deeply in the technical roots of our institute that we let the creatives flounder in the background. 

Similar to almost every Tech student I’ve ever talked to, I was on the robotics team in high school. We built a 120-pound robot in a six-week time frame. But what was different about myself was that I was able to become the president of the team without having any technical background. I was kept away from the robot because the team lived in fear of me breaking the expensive machine or breaking myself. I instead spent my time focused on perfecting the business side of the team. I found comfort in the creative. I played piano, I made Spotify monthly playlists, I took photos of robots. And then I graduated.

Coming to Tech as an engineering major, I found myself searching online forums for any sign of creative life at Tech. I was reading a review of Tech that focused on a washing machine metaphor. Students here are constantly trapped in a washing cycle of STEM, everyone you talk to, everything you see, everything you experience is in some way connected to STEM. I loved being creative; would I find my place? 

Fast forward to today. After looking high and low I have managed to find my way into a role at Tech’s radio station while also writing for the student paper — quickly becoming the assistant head of photography and soon to be stepping into the head photography role.  

I have a sports photography internship and got to shoot Superbowl press conferences. I spend my Thursday nights either studying or listening to talented Tech students perform at Under the Couch in the Student Center. I spend Fridays sitting by the glass at Tech hockey games. I find myself writing this very article. An engineering major, writing an opinion article on creativity. 

Finding more outlets for creativity at Tech is pivotal to students that find themselves hoping to be more than just engineers. For one, keeping Under the Couch in the new Student Center is a good place to start. Under the Couch allows for students to explore their musical passions without the pressure of needing to succeed. It provides a safe space for students to build friendships and forget about the Calculus test they have the next week. Taking this space away results in students being forced to suppress their musical passions. Starting clubs or organizations in photography, vocal, musical or any other artistic discipline gives students the means to explore fields they may not have even thought about trying. It allows students to find personal passions. Personal passions lead to a more well-rounded person and open up different forms of communication. It gives people a place to feel true to themselves. 

Being creative makes you a higher performing student and it allows you to have something to wake up to that you love to do. Tech should lean into the creative adventures and encourage students to do more things major-unrelated — it is the best decision I’ve ever made.