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3D Printing for Everyone: UCLA Club President and Mechanical … – UCLA Samueli School of Engineering Newsroom

Jacobi Gunsalus
Courtesy of Jacobi Gunsalus
Dec 14, 2022
Jacobi Gunsalus wants to engineer an equitable future for everyone by fostering a creative and inclusive community at the student-run UCLA chapter of 3D4E — 3D printing and modeling for everyone.
The fourth-year mechanical engineering student said she first discovered her interests in science, technology, engineering and mathematics when she was a child. Due to immune-related complications, some of which Gunsalus continues to cope with in adulthood, she had to spend a great deal of time indoors and wanted to do something creative to keep herself occupied. Without realizing she was using basic engineering knowledge to work on these do-it-yourself projects, Gunsalus grew to love STEM, taking math courses at a local community college when she ran out of classes to take in her high school. 
“When I looked more into engineering, I realized it was the best option for me to pursue a combination of the things I liked most — both in school and in my personal life,” Gunsalus said of her decision to pursue a degree in engineering. What drew her to UCLA is its wealth of excellent departments and fields of study. 
As a student at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering with a minor in public affairs, Gunsalus said she enjoys the breadth of the curriculum, which allows her to take classes in materials science, computer science and electrical engineering beyond her core mechanical engineering program.
Her favorite class is MECH&AE C136: Energy and Environment taught by professor Laurent Pilon where she learned about the practical applications of thermodynamics in power generation as well as the international policy implications and geopolitics of energy. 
“When I looked more into engineering, I realized it was the best option for me to pursue a combination of the things I liked most — both in school and in my personal life,” Jacobi Gunsalus said.
“It was the first time that I’d seen principles I’d learned in my public affairs minor-related classes were applicable in an engineering class,” Gunsalus recalled.
Outside of the classroom, Gunsalus is the president of 3D4E at UCLA. She first joined the organization during remote learning in her sophomore year because she enjoyed its wide range of projects, including art and music, as well as the strong sense of community and support it offers. She became the club’s vice president in her junior year before taking on the presidency this year, growing the group’s membership and enhancing its mission to promote equity. 
“We want to make 3D printing and all the engineering skills that come with it accessible to people of any and all backgrounds,” Gunsalus said. “This mission is really important to me on a personal level as a woman in engineering.”
While Gunsalus has managed to navigate the traditionally male-dominated field of mechanical engineering, she said she has seen many other women who left the discipline because of a lack of support and empathy. 
Under her leadership, 3D4E has established an equity, diversity and inclusion chair position this year and has expanded outreach initiatives to include non-engineering students at UCLA, as well as middle and high schools. The 3D4E at UCLA board is represented by a 50-50 ratio of men and women, and many of them are either non-engineering majors or transfer students. The club has a weekly attendance of 25-30 members and more than 400 members and alumni.
“We want to make 3D printing and all the engineering skills that come with it accessible to people of any and all backgrounds,” Gunsalus said.
Most recently, 3D4E took part in a community-outreach effort at the 2022 TEDxManhattanBeach Expo Nov. 5, with Gunsalus and three other members getting up at 5 a.m. to volunteer to host a booth at Mira Costa High School where the club members demonstrated some of their projects. They were joined by UCLA Samueli chemical and biomolecular associate professor Dante Simonetti who gave a talk at the all-day conference about innovative technology breakthroughs to combat climate change and members from student organization IEEE at UCLA who showcased some of their interactive electrical engineering projects, including an autonomous maze-solving robot and a computer design.
“We were able to introduce 3D printing to so many people that day,” Gunsalus said about the experience. “So many people were shocked by how affordable and simple 3D printing can be.” 
Over the summer, Gunsalus applied her knowledge and skills to an HVAC field engineering internship with Amazon. She collected and analyzed data on all heating, ventilating and air conditioning equipment in Amazon facilities to identify and propose solutions for the company’s preventative maintenance plans. The internship taught her the importance of data analysis and reliability engineering in addition to giving her an opportunity to visit Amazon warehouses around the country and provide quality inspections.
On course to graduate in spring, Gunsalus is planning to work full time for a few years in an engineering-related position before pursuing an advanced degree in business or law school thanks to her favorable experience with the introductory classes taught at UCLA in both disciplines.
“I like how tangible the applications are,” Gunsalus said. “I’m very grateful that mechanical engineering at UCLA offers so much variety in classes and has allowed me to pursue internships and full-time job opportunities in so many different engineering fields that I sometimes didn’t even know existed.” 
Dannela Lagrimas contributed to this story.

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