The ‘Lady Engineer’ Who Took the Pain Out of the Train #MakerEducation
Great feature on Olive Wetzel Dennis, an early 20th Century service engineer, from Atlas Obscura.
If you had ridden the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad in the American northeast sometime in the 1920s or ’30s, you might have noticed a passenger who seemed unusually invested in her environment. While you snoozed through Cincinnati, or looked out the window at the approaching Chicago skyline, this woman was probably carefully measuring the height of the seats, or laying cloth swatches over them to check the colors.
As you chose your supper in the dining car, you might have seen her sampling every single item on offer. The next morning, when you blearily left your bunk, she might have greeted you, and asked you how you slept.
This was Olive Wetzel Dennis, the world’s first “Service Engineer.” During an era when few women even set foot on trains, let alone helped design them, Dennis spent most of her time riding the rails for the B&O, thinking of ways to improve the average traveler’s experience. Over her decades-long career, the “Lady Engineer,” as she was called, introduced scores of improvements to the company’s railroads—from footrests and reclining seats to special ventilators she designed herself. As the Baltimore Sun put it years after her death, “she took the pain out of the train.”
Each Tuesday is EducationTuesday here at Adafruit! Be sure to check out our posts about educators and all things STEM. Adafruit supports our educators and loves to spread the good word about educational STEM innovations!
Stop breadboarding and soldering – start making immediately! Adafruit’s Circuit Playground is jam-packed with LEDs, sensors, buttons, alligator clip pads and more. Build projects with Circuit Playground in a few minutes with the drag-and-drop MakeCode programming site, learn computer science using the CS Discoveries class on code.org, jump into CircuitPython to learn Python and hardware together, or even use Arduino IDE. Circuit Playground Express is the newest and best Circuit Playground board, with support for MakeCode, CircuitPython, and Arduino. It has a powerful processor, 10 NeoPixels, mini speaker, InfraRed receive and transmit, two buttons, a switch, 14 alligator clip pads, and lots of sensors: capacitive touch, IR proximity, temperature, light, motion and sound. A whole wide world of electronics and coding is waiting for you, and it fits in the palm of your hand.