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ECE Senior Stories: Fall 2019

Atlanta, GA

This fall, 141 seniors in the Georgia Institute of Technology's School of Electrical and Computer Engineering will walk across the stage and receive their diplomas. We've done a Q&A with five of them. Read on to learn about their Georgia Tech ECE experiences.
 

Daniil Budanov

What is your major?
Computer Engineering
 
Why did you decide to major in computer engineering?
The answer I'd give today is different than the answer high school senior me would give a few years ago. Then, I had recently picked up an Arduino and a few sensors, and suddenly everything electronic started seeming a whole lot more within reach, and a deep dive into electronics and how to control them seemed as the logical next step. Today, I could not be more thankful for the aggregation of mathematically-oriented controls and DSP coursework with hands-on labs offered with the Computer Engineering degree. In addition to fostering a problem solving attitude, this coursework and extracurriculars opened up a world of very humbling but fascinating problems in engineering, which I've realized should be the goal of any undergraduate engineering degree.
 
What was your favorite class while at Georgia Tech? Why was it your favorite?
There were a plethora of phenomenal classes, but one that sticks out to me above all others is ECE 4894, Introduction to Malware Reverse Engineering taught by Professor Brendan Saltaformaggio. Prof. Brendan made it clear from the first day of class that this would be the hardest and most rewarding class we would take in college, and it lived up to both of these claims. In this class, we reverse engineered malware that devastated everything from client computers to business infrastructures to nation-state elections, and imposed a healthy skepticism of all computer security that can only be achieved through endless nights of wrestling with mischievous logic written with malicious intent.
 
Did you participate in any extracurricular clubs or activities? If so, what were they?
My first few years, I was a member of RoboJackets. This club taught me an incredible amount about how to engineer complex projects and how to administer teams of all sizes in a complex organization.

I later helped found HyperJackets, a Hyperloop competition team where we designed a vehicle capable of reaching a speed of hundreds of miles per hour.
 
Throughout college, I had two terms of performing research for the Opportunity Research Scholars program. This was my first official engineering experience and kicked off the course of the rest of my engineering career. I would like to extend endless thanks to Julie Ridings, Jill Auerbach, and the ORS staff for making this happen.
 
What do you plan to do after graduation?
Immediately after graduation, I will be backpacking across Greece, Morocco, and Spain. I will then be moving to Los Angeles to begin work at SpaceX as an FPGA Firmware Engineer, where I will be programming rockets.

 

Collin Rusch

What is your major?
Electrical Engineering
 
What was your favorite class while at Georgia Tech? Why was it your favorite?
3084 - Signals and Systems. It was the first engineering class I took that I truly got to understand the topics thoroughly, getting to see the beautiful part of how processing these signals occurs in every aspect of our lives.
 
What achievement are you most proud of from your time at Georgia Tech?
I'm most proud of the progress I've made when comparing myself to freshman year. Whether it's socially, academically, or mentally, Georgia Tech has changed me for the better through numerous experiences that I'll never forget. It's hard to pick one achievement because so much has happened and changed for me in these last 4 years.
 
Did you participate in any extracurricular clubs or activities? If so, what were they?
Sigma Phi Epsilon, Leadership Challenge Course Facilitator, Georgia Tech Women's Basketball Practice Team
 
What do you plan to do after graduation?
I will be travelling for six months before starting work for Texas Instruments as a technical sales representative.

Where do you see yourself in five years?
Hopefully still being a helluva engineer.

 

Mark Woodson

What is your major?
Computer Engineering
 
Why did you decide to major in computer engineering?
In high school, I attended engineering camps over the summer and was very interested in the professors that talked about what they did with computer engineering and programming.
 
What was your favorite class while at Georgia Tech? Why was it your favorite?
My favorite class was ECE 2036 taught by Dr. Klein. It was a great balance of learning, hard work, and fun, and it was one of the main reasons why I stuck with computer engineering. I also ended up with an A so that made the experience much better.
 
What achievement are you most proud of from your time at Georgia Tech?
I am most happy with the internship that I was able to get with American Express and Draper. It was hard work to prepare for the opportunities, but in the end, it helped me learn a lot.
 
Did you participate in any extracurricular clubs or activities? If so, what were they?
I was a member and chair of the Student Center Programs Council, lived in the International House, and worked as a student manager for Member Services at the CRC.
 
How did Georgia Tech prepare you for your future career?
Georgia Tech has prepared me with many technical skills that I will need to use in the workplace. The opportunities that Georgia Tech has given me to gain leadership skills and meet people from around the world also will help me immensely in the future.
 
What do you plan to do after graduation?
I will continue with the B.S./M.S. program for ECE here at Georgia Tech.
 
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I see myself working full time as a software engineer. Ideally on the West Coast because that is where most of my family is, where my top job preferences are, and because west is best!

 

Austin Mitchell

What is your major?
Computer Engineering

Why did you decide to major in computer engineering?
I've always been into computers. My dad used to play computer games with me when I was a kid and I always wanted to understand how they worked on a deeper level.

What was your favorite class while at Georgia Tech? Why was it your favorite?
I LOVED ECE-4180! I'm an inventor at heart so any class where we get to learn how to make embedded devices that can do anything we can put our minds to is a fantastic class.

What achievement are you most proud of from your time at Georgia Tech?
Building my own contraption for the Ramblin Wreck parade! It was so much fun being able to ride something I built all on my own and show off my hard work and engineering.

Did you participate in any extracurricular clubs or activities? If so, what were they?
CCF (Christian Campus Fellowship) and The Hive (the student organization that runs Georgia Tech's largest makerspace).

How did Georgia Tech prepare you for your future career?
Lots of hands on technical experience as well as teamwork, cooperation, and communication with other people interested in my field.

What do you plan to do after graduation?
I'm going to be working for L3Harris.

Where do you see yourself in five years?
I've always wanted to start my own company, maybe one day...

 

Samantha Mann

What is your major?
Computer Engineering

Why did you decide to major in computer engineering?
I always loved math and science, so when I had to do a senior project during my final year of high school I knew I wanted it to be engineering focused. I reached out to my local SWE chapter in Honolulu, and was connected with a mentor and the opportunity to work with engineers at Hawaiian Electric in the Renewable Energy Department. I loved getting to combine my technical interests with something impactful, and this experience solidified my interest in studying computer engineering.

What achievement are you most proud of from your time at Georgia Tech?
I was part of a senior design team that helped design a semi-autonomous robot for managing invasive populations of sea urchins in collapsing kelp forest regions. Because of climate change and overfishing of marine life, sea urchin populations have spiked and caused the destruction of kelp forests, one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet. This project was an eye opening experience to a problem I was unaware of, and I loved having the opportunity to aid in ocean sustainability while applying interesting technology as I worked on the computer vision components of the underwater robot.

Did you participate in any extracurricular clubs or activities? If so, what were they?
I was super involved with DanceTech Performing Company, and was a choreographer for classes and performances as well as part of the executive team. I grew up dancing in a variety of styles from ballet to ballroom, so it was great to keep dancing during college. I also was involved with SWE and WECE, and have volunteered at their outreach events to teach K-12 girls about STEM-related projects. Additionally, I was on the IEEE PES Haiti Solar Project and traveled to Thoman, Haiti to help install a microgrid system that powers a health clinic in the village.

What do you plan to do after graduation?
I will be working at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab. I loved the breadth of projects that I worked on at Georgia Tech, and I am excited to continue this type of work at the Lab.

 

Nicholas Zhao

What is your major?
Electrical Engineering

Why did you decide to major in electrical engineering?
I built computers, robots, and quadcopters in high school and really enjoyed it.

What was your favorite class while at Georgia Tech? Why was it your favorite?
ECE 4550 (Control System Design) taught by Dr. David Taylor. Was a really great lab class that combined control system theory with microcontroller programming applications, and taught really great applicable skills such as how to read technical documentation. Also Dr. Taylor is the best professor I've ever had at Georgia Tech.

What achievement are you most proud of from your time at Georgia Tech?
Winning Best Interdisciplinary Project at Capstone Expo with an original startup idea. My team and I never expected to do well or actually carry our idea past senior design, but we're actually applying to CreateX Startup Launch this coming summer.

Did you participate in any extracurricular clubs or activities? If so, what were they?
I've been in the Archery Club and Swim Club my whole time at Tech, and joined EcoCar this past semester. I was also on RECONSO before it got cancelled.

How did Georgia Tech prepare you for your future career?
Research projects helped a ton in learning more applicable skills and how to work on a team with others. At this point I've learned more from research and personal projects than my classwork probably.

What do you plan to do after graduation?
I'm going to be returning for the ECE B.S./M.S. program, where I'm planning on pursuing an interest in Control Systems. Over the summer I'm going to be interning at SpaceX in Hawthorne, CA where I'll be working on avionics testing.

Where do you see yourself in five years?
I honestly have no idea. I'm floating in between going for a Ph.D., looking for work full time, continuing with my startup idea, or trying to make the national team for archery. At the very least I want to have a cat.

 

Additional Photos

Daniil Budanov

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Collin Rusch

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Mark Woodson

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Austin Mitchell

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Samantha Mann

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Nicholas Zhao

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Last revised May 15, 2020