I sported a vibrant orange suit and a smile that resembled a waxing crescent moon. Authentic NASA patches adorned my chest and arms. Tightening my watch and securing a flashlight around my neck, I was as official as an eight-year-old astronaut could be.
Although my costume lacked a helmet, my official NASA baseball cap ensured that no one would mistake me for a race-car driver. Every moment was a chance to get more candy; I could not waste time explaining my costume. I clutched my durable yellow pumpkin bag, which I hypothesized would fit 800 pieces of candy. Mission control, I mean my mom, had donated three sweets to the haul already. I proudly strode up to my next-door neighbor’s house and knocked with authority. As I waited for Mr. Tumulo to answer, I pulled out my top-secret mission briefing and checked the first house off the list.
Before leaving my house at 5:59 p.m., I had planned my Halloween route. Assuming that it would take roughly 40 seconds for adults to answer the door, 16 seconds for me to explain my costume, and 32 more seconds for the traditional Halloween inquiry, each house would take roughly two minutes. Staying on schedule would enable me to reach all 53 houses in the two hours allotted for trick-or-treating, with 14 minutes to spare. Orbiting counterclockwise from my house would limit the uphill climbs. Because of the rough terrain in my neighborhood, I planned on leaping up the hills like Neil Armstrong did as he made his first steps on the moon.
Mr. Tumulo took exactly 42 seconds to answer my knock, and he immediately deposited a flashy cellophane bag filled with Halloween treasures into my pack. The night proceeded as planned, despite underestimating how gravity would affect my baggy pants, which slowed me down considerably.
After finally returning to mission control, I emptied my tote and my dad’s pockets onto the dining room table, and the real work commenced. From one of my many pockets, I pulled out my notepad and began to record my findings. Although the 14 mini Starburst packets beckoned me, in the name of science and mathematics, I had to complete the mission before I tasted victory. I tallied each and every piece of candy, then created a bar graph to visually represent the success of my collecting. (Note: I left the Almond Joys and other dark chocolate candies out of my calculations because I let my dad have those.)
Although I have not been trick-or-treating in many years, my methodical persona remains. Working meticulously, managing time efficiently, communicating well with others, and thinking analytically are ingrained in my DNA. Instead of planning my October 31st mission, I now plan quarterly events for the Latin Club. I traded in candy-cataloguing for graphing and analyzing how my school may benefit from reusable trays in place of styrofoam ones. Instead of seeking to educate my neighbors about my costume, I build relationships with new students at my school as a Student Ambassador.
An engineer applies science and math to solve problems. Viewing the world through the lens of a mathematical equation, engineers seek to explain it by applying the scientific method. The methodologies employed in my youth helped me sharpen my ability to make inquiries and search for solutions. As I think about the traits that define me, my precision and determination in the face of challenges illustrate that, truly, I was born to be an engineer.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.