As a seventh grader, Ben Monson took a very basic intro to engineering class. He liked the class enough to want to learn more about what actual engineers did.

That opportunity came when he was in his teens.

“My first experience was when I think I was 16 or 17. I went to the Barr Engineering Mentor Night in Hibbing with my grandpa. I don’t even think I talked to anyone there because I was very intimidated at first,” he recalled. “But, I still ended up learning about all of the different schools around the area that you can get an engineering degree from, along with all of the different degrees there are that you can get. Even though I didn’t talk to a single person, it still solidified in my mind that I wanted to become an engineer.”

Monson was also impressed by the gentleman who gave the event’s introduction speech.

Fast forward about six years.

That same man advised Monson on how to apply and land a job at a local engineering firm. Today, Monson is a sales and marketing engineer. He currently working at Jasper Engineering on inside sales, outside sales, marketing and engineering design projects.

And what does he like most about his job?

Working with people.

“I enjoy problem solving, but there is something different about problem solving when someone asks you specifically for your help. When someone comes to you for guidance on finding the solution to a problem based on your technical knowledge and experience,” he explained. “I am still very early in my career, so I have a lot to learn. But I have found what I want to do.

The Range Engineering Council (REC) will be sponsoring two Engineering Mentor Nights in mid-November.

The first session will be from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 15, at Barr Engineering in Hibbing. The second session will be from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 16, Komatsu Mining in Virginia.

Geared toward high schools students in grades 9-12 and college students, the free events will begin with short introductions, followed by open houses that invite students to meet with the engineers one-on-one.

Oh, and pizza will be served too.

“It is a fantastic way to network with engineers in the area,” said Monson. “It is also a great way to learn about potential jobs, industries or degrees that you might not have known about prior to the event.”

Students are encouraged to wander and meet with the engineering mentors from various disciplines. The hope is that the interactions allow students to learn more about the profession and career, and possibly help them understand what type of engineering they’re interested in.

Engineering Mentor Nights began in 2008, and attendance has steadily grown over the years.

“Last year was about 75 to 100 students,” said Monson. “This year hopefully more.”

Holding the events in two locations helps boost attendance as it allows students from either side of the Range to attend. It’s also a convenience for both students and mentors.

The number of mentors planning to participate this year has already exceeded last year’s count.

“Last year 36 mentors,” noted Monson. “This year, 50 and counting. Between the two locations.”

Some college reps will also be attending this year.

“The mentors are people from all around the Range that are able to share their experiences and guidance to the students,” said Monson. “These will range from teachers, students, engineers currently working in the area and retired engineers.”

The role of a mentor is to field students’ questions — by they about experiences, profession, degree or company, and so forth.

“The students are not assigned one mentor,” he explained. “They will have access to and contact information for all of the mentors. So they will be able to talk to any of them, based on the students interest in the mentor’s profession, degree or company.”

For the past six years, Nick Sosalla has participated in engineering mentoring night. That happens to coincide with how long he’s been at Barr Engineering. He’s a mineral process engineer.

“Engineering mentoring night is an easy way to share my experience and hopefully give some clarity to kids considering a career in engineering,” said Sosalla as to why he’s a part of it. “I like to just share my experience with what I have seen so far in my career. It is easiest to talk about what you know the most.”

The commitment is small — only one evening of time on his end — and the reward is big.

“It’s fulfilling to help guide people into engineering careers,” he said. “ …And it is always nice to help share my experience and maybe help some kids decide what they want to study going forward.”

Engineering Mentor Nights had started after he had already graduated. Yet he still recommends it to students.

“It is a very relaxed way to learn about the typical day of different engineers,” he said. “Also, free food is usually a pretty effective way to get people to attend.”

Engineering Mentor Nights are a great opportunity to socialize and learn, contends Jessica Taylor. A sales engineer with Jasper Engineering, she also serves as a mentor.

“I want to help other achieve their goals,” she said. “We all have different experiences and knowledge, and being able to share these experiences and the knowledge I have with others might be that next stepping stone they need in their journey to their goal.”

There are a lot of different engineering degrees out there, said Taylor, and students may have questions on what options there are or what each degree means — what does a chemical engineer do? Where can I work as an environmental engineer? Why is it important to have electrical engineers?

“Engineering Mentor Night is the place to get more information,” she added.

As Sosalla noted, the hope is that a student comes out knowing at least one more thing about what engineering entails than he or she did going in.

“And to know there is always someone here to help you,” said Taylor. “All you have to do is ask.”

Chad Freeland, a mining engineer at Northshore Mining, enjoys discussing people’s life plans and having the chance to share all he’s learned so far.

His approach?

“Tell them what I do. Ask them what their interests are,” he said. “Use my experience in school and the industry to try to match those interests to a field, subfield, career path or company that would dovetail with those interests. Also expose them to entirely new things they may be interested in.”

Freeland said he learns from the students during their interactions.

“I gain Insight into what high schoolers are looking for in a career,” he said. “What they are or are not aware of. How they perceive the world before them.”

Just like the three mentors, Monson said the Engineering Mentor Nights are definitely worth checking out.

“Worst case: you bring some friends, snag some pizza and leave,” he said. “Best case: you find the path that will best fit you for your future career and a lifelong resource and network of mentors.”

RSVP (optional) for an event at To learn more about the events or REC, reach out to Ben Monson at or 218-750-4995.


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