This is a story of critical participation in engineering and applied science spaces that examines the challenges and opportunities of STS (Science and Technology Studies) experiments in relation to disciplinary identity, institutional values, and the power dynamics at work in the experiment. Comparing my experiences as an STS graduate student negotiating access in a research-oriented nanoengineering department geared toward capital formation, and as an assistant professor in a teaching-oriented applied science department geared toward holistic problem-solving, I highlight the necessity of creating mutual benefit and shared interest for STS approaches to gain traction in these spaces. At the same time, I describe the ways that institutional imperatives and power dynamics enable and constrain the possibilities for doing so. I argue that making STS relevant in STEM spaces requires paying close attention to the language through which scientists and engineers express their perspectives, values, and challenges, and it requires exercising a level of opportunism in identifying ways to make STS insights visible and legitimate. Teaching in a multidisciplinary curriculum builds on shared interest in education, potentially enabling disparate perspectives to come into dialogue as part of mutual world-building.