Smith on Course to Become an Engineer
At the start of the Fall 2009 Semester, Pitt Community College launched a Pre-Engineering Associate in Science curriculum to give students an opportunity to complete the first two years of an engineering degree in a more personal setting and at a lower cost before transferring to a four-year institution for a bachelor’s degree.
For Ash Smith, the timing couldn’t have been any better.
The 31-year-old Smith was working at a refrigeration company he owned and operated with his father when he began taking courses at PCC part-time. As he transitioned into full-time student status, Pitt began the pre-engineering program and Smith found it a perfect fit.
From all indications, it appears Smith has chosen a career path that will suit him well. His hobbies include astronomy, computer games and working on tiny electric cars. He volunteers with Ayden’s A Time for Science on astronomy viewing days and still helps Charles Goodman, one of his former PCC instructors, assemble telescopes for an astronomy class.
Those who pursue careers as engineers are inquisitive; they ask a lot of questions. They are curious about how things work and want to find ways to make them function even better. They are thoughtful and careful not to make assumptions.
So, when Smith is asked how his friends would best describe him, his reply fits the typical engineering mold: “I would prefer not to attempt to speak for others,” he says, “but it is my hope that they would view me as a calm, rational, intelligent and charismatic person.”
Ask him what he considers to be his hometown? “There is no accurate answer for this—long story, involving lots of moving.”
Though he may not be able to clearly identify a true hometown, Smith has identified a true calling and has found a home in the Science and Technology Building on the campus of East Carolina University, where he is studying engineering and physics.
Smith says receiving a college degree is important to him, explaining, as only a future engineer would, that even though “the possibility for success exists without a degree, the probability of success increases greatly with education.”
Prior to transferring to ECU, Smith excelled in the classroom as a PCC student, becoming one of just 50 students to earn an Academic Excellence Award from the college in 2010. He graduated from Pitt later that spring with an Associate of Science degree and says the college prepared him “very well” for his ECU coursework.
“My time at PCC was great,” Smith says. “… The faculty members were always friendly, approachable, enthusiastic and very skilled. They worked as hard toward my education as I did. This made for an excellent learning environment.”
Smith has continued to achieve academic success at East Carolina. Already, he has received a pair of certificates from the engineering and physics departments in recognition of his Honor Roll status at the university.
When he graduates from ECU, Smith will actually receive two bachelor’s degrees – one in physics and another in engineering.
“My goal is to work in engineering at a research level,” Smith said of his career plans. “I am still narrowing down fields, but some general areas of interest of mine include internal combustion engine dynamics and nuclear power plants.
“I would be very interested to work in engine development, hybrid vehicle development, or on helping to develop an economic thorium nuclear reactor design, which is presently in research and development stages.”
For those who may be considering PCC’s pre-engineering curriculum, Smith says “jump in with both feet” and emphasizes the need to develop mathematics proficiency.
“Developing an intuitive sense of basic mathematics, such as calculus, will be crucial to their understanding of more advanced [engineering] concepts,” Smith said. “I actually am not a person who particularly enjoys mathematics for its own sake, but it is an excellent way to arrive at a solution to a problem.”
Spoken like a future engineer.