KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Senior Mitch MacDermaid always knew he wanted to be an engineer. Growing up, one of his favorite activities was to take things apart and rebuild them—a hands-on hobby that quickly became the basis for his career and the reason he chose Western Michigan University for his education.
When considering his college options, he knew he made the right choice considering Western’s hands-on approach, world-class facility, extensive labs and highly accomplished faculty. That choice was confirmed during his first engineering course.
“My favorite experience so far at WMU was the intro to mechanical engineering course during my first year. It was the first time truly being exposed to my major and covered the basics of all main topics with a blend of hands-on projects and research,” says MacDermaid. “Dr. (Matthew) Cavalli did an outstanding job making the class very interesting and fun while making sure we learned a lot of information in that one semester.”
After validating his decision to study mechanical engineering, MacDermaid pursued as many experiences as he could manage while staying true to his goals, including multiple internships and becoming a member of the WMU SAE Formula team.
“I had always loved working hands on with cars and dreamed of becoming a racer. On my tour of WMU, I saw the car sitting in the lobby of the engineering building and knew I needed to be on that team,” says MacDermaid, who is now president of the team. He says being part of a student organization is one of the best college experiences for engineers because it pushes students to become critical thinkers and advance their engineering intellect. “Being part of the Formula SAE team connects us with the top companies in the automotive industry and helps us get to know other engineers with similar interests. By the end of the season, you aren’t just a team anymore, you are a family.”
As for work experience, the ambitious MacDermaid has worked as a co-op for Eaton Corporation, a power management company, in the instrumentation of their transmission division as well as at automaker Stellantis in the suspension group, instrumentation department and Chelsea (Michigan) Proving Grounds.
“I have been able to try different things in the automotive industry and discovered a passion for hands-on testing and validation in the industry. I have been able to build up my resume and get years of work experience to pursue this goal.”
To achieve that goal, MacDermaid plans to complete his master’s degree in mechatronics and work hands on in the automotive field in the next five years. “I love working at the Chelsea Proving Grounds with physical testing and would happily work there full time as an engineer,” he says.
“After my experience with Western’s Formula team, I would love to continue racing and maybe even become a member of an F1 team someday in the future.”
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