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I have always known that I have had a teaching soul. From teaching my older cousin her alphabet when I was three years old to tutoring algebra at the local community college to leading a brainstorming session on underwater robotic vehicles, I have always known this was my calling. Unfortunately I could not afford college directly after high school so I joined the United States Navy. I performed very well on the entrance exams and placement tests and was selected to serve in the nuclear power program, a feat reserved for the top ten percent of the military. After a tour on fast attack submarines, I attended a small school in Florida where I maintained a perfect 4.0 grade point average while taking part in many extracurricular activities such as an engineering club that successfully installed a hydrogen fuel cell on a four-stroke go-kart engine.
Realizing my academic aptitude at this level, I was driven to challenge myself at the next level and chose to travel out of state to the prestigious Georgia Institute of Technology. I was originally accepted to the Atlanta campus for Chemical Engineering but decided to attend an open house at the Savannah campus. I spoke with the associate chair of Mechanical Engineering for over an hour about the prestige of Georgia Tech, the cutting edge learning environment that only the Savannah campus could offer, but most intriguing, the opportunity that I would have to take charge of my education and help cast a path for future generations to follow in the newly developed satellite campus. I had a feeling this was a well rehearsed recruitment speech but there was no reason these things could not happen, that I could not make these things a reality. I knew in order to achieve my dream of becoming a professor, I would need a highly regarded degree. I chose to pursue a bachelors' degree in Mechanical Engineering and quickly found my field of interest, robotics.
For the past three years I have been the leader of a team of graduate and undergraduate researchers that have focused on marine robotics. Since the inception of the project, the team has produced two underwater vehicles and a surface vehicle capable of conducting environmental surveys completely autonomously. My role has been mainly project management, task definition, community outreach, and corporate sponsorship. We have been featured on the local television news on more than one occasion, have had various newspaper and magazine articles written about us, and most importantly beat M.I.T. in an underwater robotics competition on their own turf. This has been an invaluable experience and it has also made me realize my weaknesses.
In addition to the robotics' team, I am the chairman of the Undergraduate Fee Allocation Committee. I am also a member of the student chapter of ASME. I have been a student representative in the Savannah campus' Strategic Planning Committee. I am also a member of the Pi Tau Sigma Honor Society. Even with all these accomplishments, I feel the most rewarding extracurricular activity has been the community outreach. I have been able to exercise my love for teaching and use my experience with robotics to lead summer camps for local grade school students. These four to five week camps teach kids, grades 4-8, robotics using Lego Mindstorms, programming using 2-D animation programs such as Scratch and 3-D animation programs such as Alice.
I feel that a graduate degree in electrical/computer engineering from Georgia Tech would provide me with the well-rounded education needed to advance in the field of robotics and more specifically control theory. I see this field as expanding exponentially as things move towards automation. Going to another institution would be, in my opinion, a major step backwards. With an undergraduate degree in mechanical systems and a graduate degree in controls from Georgia Tech I will be a valuable asset to both industry and academia, not only through my own accomplishments but through the direction and development of future generations.