Student / Alumni Spotlight

Mechanical Engineering Department Selects 2022 Academic and Professional Students of the Year

Elaine Pollard

Elaine Pollard

Elaine Pollard was selected as the “Academic Student of the Year” by the Mechanical Engineering Department. She is a second-year student at Kennesaw State University working towards a Major in Mechanical Engineering and a Minor in Applied Statistics and Analytics. Additionally, she has spent the last year being a Supplemental Instruction Leader and has been a Team Lead with the program. 

She intends to continue with the program for the rest of her time at KSU. Soon, she hopes to be involved with Undergraduate Research. Over two years of being a full-time student and two years of Dual Enrollment, she has maintained a 4.0 GPA and is on track to graduate by December 2023. Elaine hopes to have a career in data science and utilize the skills she has learned in the Mechanical Engineering Program to be a better analyst. 


Patricia Strack

Patricia StrackPatricia Strack has been selected for the “Professional Student of the Year.” Patricia returned to school after working as a pharmacist in various settings for ten years. She is now a fourth-year Mechanical Engineering student at Kennesaw State University with a 4.0 GPA.  

During her time at Kennesaw State University, Patricia was a member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and the Society of Women Engineers, even serving as its Vice President during the 2020-2021 school year and receiving the 2021 Mary V. Munger Memorial scholarship through the national organization. Patricia also researched microgravity’s effects on blood flow in the carotid artery. 

Martin Garcia

Martin Garcia posing with his creation.Martin Garcia spent most of his childhood living in a concrete farmhouse in an impoverished area of Guanajuato, Mexico, passing the time by crafting toys out of leftover tools and car parts at a local mechanic shop.

It was during these visits to the shop that he established his curiosity with the function and design of machinery, ultimately inspiring him to chase his calling as a future engineer. This month, Garcia will graduate from Kennesaw State University with a degree in mechanical engineering after an illustrious undergraduate career in the Southern Polytechnic College of Engineering and Engineering Technology. Read More.

Jackson Hill

Jackson Hill in a suit and tie, with a white background.
Jackson Hill, a mechanical engineering student minoring in nuclear engineering, was featured in the Student Spotlight section of the Department of Career Planning & Development. He was interviewed on how the department helped, his co-op experience at a nuclear plant, and the advice he has for other students.

How has Career Planning & Development helped?

Career Planning and Development enabled me to be connected in the career fair where I was able to interview with multiple companies. Originally, I didn't think about applying for a Southern Company Co-Op until I spoke to them at the career fair. I realized that their Co-Op program was what I wanted to experience. Through Career Planning and Development, I was able to be involved in Southern Company networking events and on campus interviews, leading me to my current job.

How was your co-op experience?

Throughout the Spring 2020 semester I worked my first rotation for Southern Nuclear at Plant Vogtle in Waynesboro Georgia. I was involved in the 1R22 refueling outage (replacing Uranium fuel in the Unit 1 reactor), creating a design change package, and engineering of components such as pumps, motors, and valves throughout the plant. Alongside this work, I toured Units 3&4, the first new nuclear reactors under construction in 30+ years in the US.

What advice do you have for other students?

Firstly, I would advise students to leave their comfort zone and network with employers, professors, and other organizations. By joining NESEL at KSU, I was able to further deepen my knowledge of both Mechanical Engineering and Nuclear Engineering. Secondly, be involved with campus groups such as Career Planning and Development. Their resources gave me the impetus and assistance to creating a well-rounded resume and elevator pitch which I was able to use when applying for Co-Ops.

Kara Dees 
Advocate of Wi-Fi Connectivity 

Kara Dees Wi-Fi Connectivity Kennesaw State photo

Electrical Engineering graduate Kara Dees is so excited that her research on Wi-Fi connectivity in rural Georiga has led to meetings with Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan, Executive Director of the Rural Broadband Program Deanna Perry, and state Senator Steve Gooch, who sponsored a bill to allow the state to create its own broad band maps.

All four are interested in expanding broadband deployment in Georgia, especially rural areas because of the way the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) maps broadband availability from census data. Dees explained that if one residence or business has broadband access, then the whole census block is considered broadband accessible. 

As Dees was pursuing her statistics minor, she became passionate about solving this problem when she heard that a classmate had to walk to the end of his driveway to log in to Desire2Learn, KSU’s learning platform, because of an inadequate internet connection.

Read More 

Nadia Moore

Nadia Moore posing with her project display.Nadia Moore is a Civil Engineering major that is currently participating in a research project on novel construction materials, exploring the possibilities of a more sustainable, low-cost approach in the production of concrete structures. Traditional methods involve a wood formwork, a permanent or temporary mold into which concrete is poured, which results in the usual rigid concrete structures found in most buildings and homes.

“Instead of wood, we use material such as fabric in a concrete formwork, which creates some really cool shapes and curves that you would not normally see in concrete,” she explained. “The texture is also different, and the fabric formwork creates non-rigid structures because of its high flexibility.”

“You learn a lot through research. for example, from one day of research on this project, I learned much more about concrete than I ever had before,” she said. “So I am really excited to learn about the different aspects of structural engineering and getting to see the architecture because, as a civil engineer, I do not get to see much architecture.” Read more 

Alex Resnick

Alex Resnick holding his 3D Printer creation in the lab.Alex Resnick is a recent mechanical engineering graduate. He conducted research on the use of a 3D printer to create carbon nanostructures, during his time at SPCEET. He said that these structures may help advance the development of future products, such as wearable devices and flexible electronics. 

Resnick emphasized the importance of his research by comparing it to the industrial revolution in which steel manufacturing methods were enhanced to allow for mass production.

"Carbon nanostructures are the next major material," said Resnick. "In the next 10–15 years, graphene, found in carbon nanostructures, will be in all cellphones and electronics as a result of of graphene's electrical and thermal conductivity properties that currently exceed the standards of what is found in the market today." 

Read more

Mechanical Engineering Department Selects the Academic and Professional Students of the Year

Ryan Foster Academic Student of the YearRyan Foster

Ryan Foster, has been selected as the “Academic Student of the Year.” Ryan is a third-year student at Kennesaw State University studying Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Aerospace Engineering, presently working as a teaching assistant in the Aerospace Engineering minor. His GPA is 4.0. He is currently conducting research on wind turbine blades for a low speed application using computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and wind tunnel testing.

Ryan presented his work at the 2019 Georgia Undergraduate Research Conference and his work was accepted for the 2020 National Conferences on Undergraduate Research. He is very passionate about aviation and space exploration and aspires to have a career in the aerospace industry.



Ian Durr KSU Mechanical Engineering Professional Student of the YearIan Durr

Ian Durr, has been selected as the “Professional Student of the Year.” Ian started his education at the University of West Georgia in engineering studies. He then sought transfer universities that provided engineering degrees, and left the University of West Georgia. After ten years of work, he started classes at Kennesaw State University towards a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering.

During the period between universities, he was a supervisor/manager within three different corporations, one of which is a fortune 500 company, in four different departments.  His work experience allowed him to supervise people, property, and finances contributing to the overall success of the company, employees, shareholders, customers, and community.

While attending Kennesaw State University, he co-opped at WorkingBuildings; Commissioning, Engineering, and Architectural Firm that provided experiences in the field and office. Successfully completing his co-op, he was offered a full-time position upon completion of university studies while continuing to work part time.

Currently, Ian’s GPA is 4.0 and he has been conducting research in the area of Carbon based nanomaterials.

Tyler Gragg

Mechatronics student completed VR direct study

October 2019

Tyler Gragg's VR mechatronics machine. Tyler Gragg is a current engineering student working towards his BS in mechatronics engineering at KSU. Gragg completed a directed study this semester, where he controlled a RC Car from Virtual Reality. The whole project centered around the idea that Gragg would be able to strap on a VR headset and drive a real-life car from Virtual Reality. Gragg was able to wire the robot to have lights, a horn, and even speed control, from VR going to the car with live video being fed back from the car - in real time - to the user in VR. 

In addition to creating the project, Gragg also wrote an academic paper and submitted it to the Early Career Technical Conference at the University of Alabama Birmingham. It was accepted and Gragg join with 25 others presenting papers from their respective fields. 

To learn more, check out Gragg’s website and Instructables.

Carnell Tate at 2019 NCUR Carnell Tate

Mechanical Engineering Student Presented at Academic Conferences

June 2019

Tate is a mechanical engineering junior at Southern Polytechnic College of Engineering and Engineering Technology (SPCEET), minoring in German. He had the opportunity to present at undergraduate academic conferences at both the state and national levels this past academic year.

In fall 2018, Tate and Alisa Machiwalla, also a mechanical engineering student at KSU, attended the Georgia Undergraduate Research Collective (GURC) conference hosted by the University of North Georgia. In spring 2019, he was one of about 400 KSU undergraduates to participate in the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR), the largest conference of its kind in the country, which was hosted by KSU. Tate has also served as vice president for the KSU chapter of the Association of Energy Engineers, and most recently, was selected as president of the KSU chapter.

At GURC, Tate and Alisa modeled a way to predict how temperature behaves given the geometry or shape of the core of a specific nuclear reactor, called the Molten Salt Reactor (MSR). This is a nuclear fission reactor that uses a liquid fuel salt instead of solid fuel as the fuel and coolant. Nuclear reactors are usually used at nuclear power plants, for example, to generate electricity. In their research, they manipulated the shape of the reactor core to minimize heat build-up. Since they know how temperature and velocity are related, the key was finding the optimal reactor design, which reduces drastic variations in both.

For NCUR, Tate mapped how geographical variations affect energy costs throughout the United States by using a Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE) model. The objective was to breakdown nationwide costs and investigate assumptions that are made on a state level; in this case, Georgia was the chosen sample to explore how challenges in solar technology affect the cost of clean carbon energy.

Tate first got involved in undergraduate research by reaching out to the Nuclear Energy, Science, and Engineering Laboratory (NESEL) - a multi-disciplinary research organization in SPCEET. He did this because, initially, he started economic research on energy utility markets with the Bagwell Center for the Study of Markets and Economic Opportunity in Coles College of Business. The NESEL group Tate works with now relates to the economic research he is conducting. This allows him the ability to explore an interesting intersection between engineering and finance.

Undergraduate research is important to Tate because it contributes to the world's ever growing knowledge pool and impacts the world. More importantly, for the researcher, it allows the ability to apply current knowledge and transfer the skills learned in the classroom into tangible results. Tate’s heart is imbued with gratitude towards KSU, and as a proud student, he looks forward to furthering his collective impact in the academic community.

Pablo Giraldo-ClavijoPablo Giraldo-Clavijo

Civil engineering graduate student conducted a research project

May 2019

Civil engineering graduate student Pablo Giraldo-Clavijo conducted a research project that focused on investigating the effectiveness of styrofoam (a new type of lightweight materials) traffic noise walls as compared to conventional metal or concrete noise materials.

According to U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, noise barriers do not completely block all noise; they only reduce overall levels of sound. Effective noise barriers typically reduce noise levels by 5 to 10 decibels (dB), cutting the loudness of traffic by as much as one half. Giraldo-Clavijo’s final thesis research project could lead to a better understanding of how to select the best noise reduction material.

Read more of his story here

Eric ShultsEric Shults Jr.

Kennesaw State University's 2019 Student of the Year

May 2019

Civil Engineering senior, Eric Shults Jr. was chosen as KSU's 2019 Student of the Year by the Student Affairs department - amongst a long list of nominees. He was chosen based on his dedication and leadership roles in the ASCE student chapter throughout his years here, and for his accomplishments in getting KSU's engineering program recognized throughout the Southeast.

Brian DuncanBrian Duncan

Mechanical Engineering Technology Alumni Chosen as Director of Engineering for Cobb Gallery Centre

May 2019

Brian Duncan is a mechanical engineering technology alumni who has recently joined the Cobb-Marietta Coliseum & Exhibit Hall Authority as the Director of Engineering. Duncan is responsible for maintaining the physical plant, show services, and delivery of utilities for shows and events at the Cobb Galleria Centre, Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, and Galleria Specialty Shops.

Duncan joins the Authority from Georgia Power, where he was the chief engineer at the corporate headquarters in downtown Atlanta. Previously, Duncan spent 15 years at the Northpark Towncenter office park in Sandy Springs, where he rose through the ranks from his position as an HVAC technician to become the chief engineer.

“I’m excited about this opportunity,” Duncan said. “I’m used to working in facilities, and I appreciate the added experience of participating in something meaningful and making sure people are enjoying themselves while they’re in our venues.”

Duncan holds numerous licenses and certifications, including an unrestricted air conditioning license. Originally from McDonough, Duncan lives in Cumming with his wife and two children.

Eric NzukiEric Nzuki

Mechanical Engineering Honors Ambassador accepted to Summer Undergraduate Research Program

May 2019

Eric Nzuki, an 2018-2019 Honors College Student, has recently been accepted into the Summer Undergraduate Research in Engineering/Sciences (SURE) Program at Georgia Tech. Supported by funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Intel Corporation and other federal and corporate sponsors, this 10-week summer program is designed to attract qualified under-represented minority and women students into graduate school in the fields of engineering and science.

Each summer, approximately 40-50 students of at least junior-level undergraduate standing are recruited on a nationwide basis and paired with both a faculty member and a graduate student mentor to undertake research projects in the College of Computing, College of Engineering, and College of Sciences. Past SURE participants have cited that the program sharpened their understanding of everyday research, allowing them to plan and prepare for graduate school. Georgia Tech's SURE Program greatly impacted their understanding of modern-day research theory and concepts and as a result, strengthen their self-confidence in their ability to do well in future technical/scientific courses.

"I'm humbled and excited by this opportunity to conduct research that will bring insight to help manufacturers create better products," Eric says. He says that after he graduates in December of this year with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering, he wants to work as a Mechanical Engineer in either Manufacturing or Research and Development, all while attending graduate school for Engineering.

-Story from the spring Honors College newsletter

Brenton JamesBrenton James

Mechanical Engineering alumni going after one more degree to add to his list

April 2019

Brenton James is a KSU Mechanical Engineering alumni. He has two bachelor degrees, one minor, one concentration, and many awards, scholarships, and internships.

After graduation he traveled to places such as the French Open in Paris, France and New York City. As an additive manufacturing intern, he also traveled to United Technologies headquarters in Farmington, Connecticut and Pratt and Whitney headquarters in East Hartford, Connecticut.

He is currently working at United Technologies - Pratt and Whitney at their Columbus Georgia site. He has been with them since October 2018 as a full-time manufacturing engineer working to develop the blades/vanes that go into jet engines.

He wants to pursue his masters in aerospace engineering at Embry–Riddle Aeronautical University.

Cadmiel Velazquez-riveraCadmiel Velazquez-rivera

Mechanical engineering student making changes in the industry

March 2019

Cadmiel Velazquez-rivera is a current mechanical engineering student at Kennesaw State University. Cadmiel first started with a small internship at M+A Matting company. He was a manufacturing engineering intern. While there he saved the company $30,000 in labor. He studied the manufacturing/production of products being manufactured. Cadmiel utilized lean manufacturing and created work instructions for continuous improvement that could be made around the plant. He gained knowledge about quality control and product testing. Cadmiel assisted management by conducting time studies based on optimizing operations to maximize both speed and efficiency of mats being produced. He designed factory set up drawings to maximize efficiency of floor workers.

Cadmiel worked with automatic trim tables to boost daily production. He broke each individual role in the trimming process to its basic components to better understand how the process functions. Cadmiel timetabled the packing process to determine the most efficient way to pack products. He implemented specific work procedures on what is expected from each role.

Cadmiel created standard operating procedures based on task assigned by the plant. He incorporated the use of pictures and step by step details in a how to guide. He translated documents to Spanish and communicated them to the non-English speaking employees.

Later Cadmiel applied to work as Shaw Industries as a co-op and got the position. There he has learn how to weld, drive lift trucks, and work on his own machine designs. Currently he is working on a project that would save the company thousands of dollars a month. It involves fixing the issues of carpets being torn apart by shelves. Cadmiel is also helping with a clutch installations and safety measures for a work area.

Danica RobersDanica Roberts

Electrical Engineering Senior Receives Grant

November 2018

2018 NSF Travel Grant Recipient, Danica Roberts, is an Electrical Engineering Senior at Kennesaw State University - pursing minors in computer science and mathematics. In addition to her studies, she has been active in her campus community, serving in key leadership roles in organizations like Society of Women Engineers, Student Government Association, and Department of Housing and Residence Life.

Danica’s research interests currently lie heavily in connected and autonomous vehicular systems. Danica received a travel grant from the National Science Foundation to attend the 2018 IEEE Vehicular Networking Conference in Taipei, Taiwan from December 5 to 7, 2018. This conference will provide her the opportunity to conduct investigative research on vehicular networks, as we all connect with some of the most influential researchers on vehicular networks.

Read more of her story here

Tyler GraggTyler Gragg

Mechatronics engineering student making glass-breaking soundwaves

October 2018

Tyler Gragg is a mechatronics engineering student who set out to make a handheld device to break glass, using sounds! He programmed all of it himself to automatically determine the resonant frequency and produce 130db of sound. Gragg designed and manufactured a 3D printed enclosure for all the electronics, which he designed and wired himself as well. Gragg also made all of the code, files, and diagrams.

An overview of his project can be seen on Wine Glass Shattering Audio Gun.

Wine glass shattering audio gunWine glass shattering audio gun
Wine glass shattering audio gun electrical Wine glass shattering audio gun custom circuit

Macey RoacheMacey Roache

Industrial Engineering student, engineering change in the Atlanta Hawks warehouse

September 2018

Macey Roache has been hired to work with the Atlanta Hawks as their Retail Warehouse Manager. As an IE student, Roache has actively engaged in providing designing and establishing process for the Hawks. Essentially, their warehouse had little to no known processes for receiving and distributing freight effectively. Roache has been tasked with taking a budget, analyzing that budget, and requesting materials to create the most efficient processes for the warehouse.

Additionally, Roache handily handles hiring of key staff members - to build a team that will be able to sustain the ever-growing process the warehouse will endure during the Hawks’ season. The warehouse has gone from an inventory amount of approximately 1 million to almost 4 million. Roache has also used this degree plan to provide solutions for an offsite storage - for both overage and seasonal inventory. He has collaborated with an outside company to house inventory until they need it. Space is an issue, as with most sports organizations.

Moreover, Roache was approved travel to another NBA organization in order to collect data from them, to bring back and implement throughout their new design process. Effectively creating and establishing partnerships across a larger spectrum of teams in the NBA. The visit was well received and they collected substantial data to help their process and thus drive sales.

Roache said, “KSU has been instrumental in establishing a solid educational foundation. My working experience has only gotten me so far. Without KSU I would NOT be able to handle the wonderful opportunity I’ve been given in totality. Go Owls!!! (And Hawks).”

Addie Thornton, civil engineering studentAddie Thornton

Civil Engineering student Awarded $5,000 Scholarship by New South Construction

August 2018

Addie Thornton is working toward her Civil Engineering degree with a minor in Construction Management and certificate in Land Surveying. Addie was chosen as one of four recipients for the $5,000 New South Foundation scholarship, based on her student organization involvement, volunteer service, academics, and passion to pursue a career in project management.

New South Construction has been in business for nearly 30 years and was started by Doug Davidson. Some of their biggest clients are Delta Air Lines, The Coca-Cola Company, The Atlanta Braves, Druid Hills Golf Club, Wesleyan School, Emory University, and General Mills. The New South Foundation makes it their goal to provide scholarships to undergraduate students who come from families in the construction industry or in some way have ties to the construction industry.

Addie attended the New South Construction Foundation scholarship reception on Wednesday, July 18th. The reception was held at New South’s warehouse located in Hapeville, Georgia. At the reception, she was able to meet with other scholarship recipients, discuss career goals, and received professional advice from the New South team.

Pictured from left to right: Doug Davidson (Chairman/CEO), Addie Thornton (Civil Engineering student), and Dan Smith (CFO/Executive Vice President)

Brackner Bueres-TorresBrayckner Bueres-Torres 

Mechanical engineering student and entrepreneur making waves in the Atlanta area

July 2018

Brayckner Bueres-Torres is our Feature Friday. He is a Mechanical Engineering student and a motivational speaker to high schools in the Atlanta area! He is the CEO of BBT brand, which provides service to help companies use social media to market and advertise their business. He hosts College Knowledge podcast on how to succeed in high school and in life. In addition, he is interning this summer at Helpfully LLC, located in Ponce City Market. Check him out at