SOLIDWORKS Women in Engineering Series: Nico Rappoli

How it started: Nico began to explore the engineering world when she was in high school. Her physics teacher also taught the engineering class and they pushed her to take the course. She also had very encouraging parents, “My mother is a graphic designer and my mom knew what engineering was. When she saw me getting interested in math and science she encouraged it.” Nico followed her passion to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute where she graduated in 2014.

Engineering Ambassadors: Nico was the event coordinator for Engineering Ambassadors, an educational outreach program where engineers from RPI travel to high schools and middle schools to present engineering topics to students. “The goal was to capture them at an early age and expose them to the field of engineering and to make it fun. It is not just pen and
paper, math and science; there is a hands-on aspect.”

While it took up a lot of her college experience she said it was fun to see how it changed the students perspective of math and science. “At the end, some kids would come up to me and ask to exchange contact information because they wanted to know more. It was great to see how it opened their eyes to the world of engineering.”

Today, Nico is involved with Project STEM at her employer, Pratt & Whitney. Employees travel to schools and partake in similar activities with students.
She now has the ability to participate year round so her team can target summer school students.

First CAD Experience: Nico started using Google SketchUp when she was in high school. “My first real CAD experience was the first semester of my freshman year. It was excellent because it pushed me to be an engineer, and in particular a design engineer. It was tough because there was a lot to learn in a semester.” She used multiple CAD products throughout her four years of college, including SOLIDWORKS.  

Current Position: Nico is currently working at Pratt & Whitney as a Mechanical Design Engineer designing jet engine hardware. She is working on her second of five assignments in a development program. “Any new designer spends eight to twelve months on a different team and then switches to a different hardware or engine. I am currently working on the F119 engine that powers the F-22 Raptor. I will be able to work on every engine and hardware that Pratt & Whitney has to offer. I have three more assignments before I settle down in a full time design position. I will have touched all different types of hardware. I use modeling pretty much every day. I am thankful for the education I got in modeling because it is very helpful.”

Working in a male dominated profession: “It honestly doesn’t bother me. I went to a school with a 3:1 ratio. Speaking up can be hard if I am the only girl in the role; it is noticeable if I am the only woman in the room. But, it makes me feel unique in some ways and I am proud of that. I have not found many challenges; everybody is very accepting. It is obviously very noticeable if I am the only woman in the room, but I do not get any different treatment.”

Advice for future women engineers: Nico encourages women to not be afraid of the ratio. “It might seem like it’s a man’s world, but it doesn’t have to be. You don’t have to be a super genius. My strong points are being curious and having really good communication skills. My fellow engineers value that about me. They like how easy it is to communicate with me and how I am curious and how I perceive things. So, if you like it, do it. Don’t be scared of that ratio.”

Bringing school to the engineering world: “I know it sounds bad, but in a class about stress calculations I kept saying, ‘I am going to be a modeler, why do I need to know all of this?’ As I started working more in depth, I have been pulling out my old textbooks. I was surprised to find things I did not find relevant were very relevant. The classes I liked the most were the more hands-on classes; that’s why I got into engineering.  I did not like doing the math problems, but I need those tools.”

20150703_113444(0)Traveling: Nico loves being outdoors and therefore loves outdoor adventures. She would love to hike Mount Washington again and she also would like to travel more throughout Europe. “I traveled to Spain after graduation. I got a little taste, but I want to travel more of Europe.” 



Have someone in mind? You can nominate the next recipient for the SOLIDWORKS Women in Engineering Program, honoring the outstanding achievements that women are accomplishing day to day in the engineering community. Find out more information or get started today!

Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks Corp. offers complete 3D software tools that let you create, simulate, publish, and manage your data. SolidWorks products are easy to learn and use, and work together to help you design products better, faster, and more cost-effectively. The SolidWorks focus on ease-of-use allows more engineers, designers and other technology professionals than ever before to take advantage of 3D in bringing their designs to life.