Former Tesla engineer to students: “It’s OK to struggle; that’s how you learn.”

Educators in Action

The message delivered to the eighth graders was very simple: you can learn through struggle if you keep with it and embrace the learning process.

Dylan Cox, a former engineer at Tesla, visited the Kulshan Middle School CTE classroom and shared some of his experiences working at the cutting-edge electric car company and about how he got there. One of the recurring themes in his talk was how struggling and failing is important in any learning process, but especially important in the engineering world.

‘In engineering,’ he said, ‘you are making the design better if you fail, because you found out it didn’t work. That’s how innovation happens. There will always be things that need to be changed and improved.”

Confessing that he wasn’t the best test-taker in school or the typical book-smart student, he emphasized many times during his class visit that “It’s ok to struggle because that is how you learn.”

“If you want something in life, you just need to work at it and stay with it. If it’s difficult, that is ultimately the best way to learn it.”

Cox talked the kids through automobile parts he had a hand in designing for the Model S and Model X Tesla cars. These were designed as 3D models in much the same way the student projects are currently designed. He also shared some of the innovation around radar and autonomous driving of the future. He explained that the Tesla cars being built right now are designed with autonomous driving in mind, and once the software is available, the current cars can be updated with it.

Cox says that the students today are very fortunate to have the technology lab, computers and software that he saw on his visit to the school.  Even though software systems are all different, the skills these students are learning with the Rhino program will easily transfer to other 3D modeling software systems.  ‘Once you know one, it’s easier to jump over to another,’ he said.

Cox graduated high school in 2009 and attended the plastics engineering and technologies program at Western Washington University. He was fortunate to land a job with Tesla just out of WWU. After three years with the company, he recently moved back to the Pacific Northwest to begin a position with Seattle-based Amazon.

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