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In many ways, Cassandra Cole is a typical third-year mechanical engineering student at the University of Waterloo. Hand her a broken camera tripod or a wobbly table card holder and her first instinct is to examine it, figure out how it works, and try to fix it. She also works on structural components as a member of the school's Formula SAE team and has spent time working around North America as part of the co-op program that's integral to her education. But Cass -- as her friends call her -- is so much more than that: she's the Formula SAE Team Lead, a model and a designer, and has already begun working with NASCAR part-time -- work that she hopes to use as a springboard towards her dream job as a Race Engineer.
Oh, and Cassandra Cole is different from 90% of her classmates in one crucial way: Cassandra is, of course, a woman. This has never been something she's viewed as a problem, however. Growing up, she enjoyed her time as a dancer and has the competition medals to show for her dedication. She more than kept pace with the boys in the classroom, often ranking at or near the top of her class in high school. Taken together, these experiences should help explain why her program was a natural choice, even when many of her friends and teachers wondered why she'd ever want to go to school with the boys.
Cass has always had a competitive fire, loves problem-solving, and has never been one to shy away from a challenge, so a chance to apply her abilities at one of the top-ranked engineering schools in the world was not something she was going to pass up. She believes strongly in aiming high and choosing to follow her passions, and she's content to leave any second-guessing to others. Cole has never been one to bow her head when faced with challenges due to others' expectations of her -- like the suspension meted out to the Formula SAE team following her "unauthorized" photo shoot with the car she helped design -- and she's tackled her studies and Formula SAE work among many other initiatives with an unparalleled zeal, allowing her to become only the second female Team Lead in the team's 25 year history.
This habit of wildly chasing her dreams has led some to describe Cass as "crazy", a label she doesn't necessarily disagree with. "I think everyone needs to be a bit crazy to get where they want to go," she says. "You have to choose the crazy, and accept the things that come with it, if you're ever going to reach your goals." Her views may seem radical to some, but Cole isn't about to soften them -- something that TEDxUW attendees will surely pick up on.
In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations)