Before Emily Yarid became an overnight TikTok sensation with her blue Iron Man suit, she was a Clemson University sophomore.
That was when the mechanical engineering graduate from North Augusta learned to use the computer-aided design software SolidWorks. She would later put those skills to work to design parts of her Iron Man suit and then 3D-print them.
“If I hadn’t gone through that class and gone that much in depth and instead taught myself, it would have taken a lot to get to the point where I am now,” Yarid said.
Just before heading to her graduation ceremony in December, Yarid posted a 45-second video of her painting, soldering and fitting together pieces of her suit, all while wearing Clemson purple and orange. The video ends with her wearing the suit and peering into the camera with its glowing eyes as two flaps open on the back.
The video went viral in a matter of hours and has amassed more than 60 million views from around the world, a following that landed her a spot on the TV news program “Good Morning America,” in The Grenville News and on WYFF, among other media outlets.
“It’s still just not something that clicks,” she said in a Zoom interview on a computer she rebuilt with her brother. “Someone in Walmart recognized me.”
Yarid, also known as emily.the.engineer on TikTok, is surrounded by Clemson engineers and scientists.
Her fiance, Jonathan Harwell, graduated in May 2020 with a Bachelor of Science in materials science and engineering and plans to start working this month as a scientist in the Upstate. Her brother, Luke Yarid, is majoring in electrical engineering at Clemson. Her father, Don Yarid, is also a Clemson graduate and working as an electrical engineer.
Yarid said her decision to pursue engineering started to come together around the time she was in 10th grade at Westminster Schools of Augusta. Anytime she wondered how a tool worked, her father would show her. A physics teacher encouraged her to move in the direction of engineering.
“And then, eventually, ‘The Avengers’ movies rolled out,” Yarid said. “I was a huge nerd. I was like, ‘Yes! This is awesome.’ I saw people building little Iron Man suits out of foam. So I did– out of foam and hot glue. That was super fun. And that made me want to build stuff.”
So many of her relatives went to Clemson, she knew it was where she wanted to go, too.
As a freshman, Yarid lived in Lever Hall and was a member of Residents in Science and Engineering. The program, also called RISE, offers residents several opportunities for academic support and to network with other STEM majors.
Yarid said she made many friends, including Harwell.
“Every time we had homework, we would go down to Lever classroom, and even if there wasn’t a tutor down there, there was at least someone in the room who knew what they were doing,” Yarid said. “My fiance and me, before we were dating, we’d work on physics homework together and we’d be like, ‘What on Earth?’ And we’d have a friend who would be like, ‘I know how to do that.’”
Yarid said she chose mechanical engineering as her major because she liked to build things and she likes how parts work together. She enjoyed her class with Rodrigo Martinez-Duarte, an associate professor of mechanical engineering who she found welcoming and encouraging.
In the class where she learned SolidWorks, Yarid modeled a replica of the National Championship trophy and an egg beater. She later used those skills and another program, Fusion 360, to help create her Iron Man suit. She designed inside parts, braces, hinges and motorized portions of the suit to make it mobile.
But most of the skills she learned to make the suit were self-taught, she said.
While a student, Yarid worked at advanced manufacturer Bosch as part of the cooperative education program, reinforcing in her mind that she chose the right major.
“It was a bunch of troubleshooting,” she said. “I got on the line, and it was figuring out all your different options. It was, ‘This piece could be interfering with this, or this could be causing friction with that.’ I enjoy making things compatible and work together.”
Yarid said that of everyone she met at Clemson, Harwell was the one who influenced her most.
“We are both Christians,” she said. “He was a very positive influence. When I first met him and we were just friends– not even dating, we were friends for a whole year before we dated– he was just a light in that way. But also throughout my experience, he’s been very encouraging in my building stuff, too. Hugely supportive. For Christmas, he buys me tools, which is so great. I love it.”
On their first date, Harwell took Yarid on a Marvel-themed scavenger hunt for infinity stones, powerful gems that figure prominently in “The Avengers” movies. He gave her clues filled with riddles and puns.
The hunt took them to several locations on and around campus, including the reflection pond, Memorial Stadium and Spill The Beans coffee shop.
“It was an excuse to walk around Clemson, and at the end of the scavenger hunt I gave her some of her favorite candies,” Harwell said.
Another big part of Yarid’s Clemson experience was the campus ministry Clemson Cru.
“It was a very nice, needed break to forget about all of my stresses with school,” she said. “I made a lot of friends there, too. People were very welcoming there. I got introduced to so many people right away, and I’m still friends with a ton of them.”
Yarid recently provided an update on her personal life to her 2.2 million TikTok followers, with the hashtag #lifeiscrazybruh. Some of the highlights: the wedding date has been reset after postponement due to COVID-19, she has a month and a half to plan everything, she and Harwell have found a place to live and she has moved home until she is married.
“But we’re finally settled back in,” she said, “and I’m ready to start making things again.”
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