Germantown engineering student plans to launch his aerospace/electrical career

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By Billy Owens                                                723 words

             Juan Rodriguez has been fascinated with anything science or engineering-related since early childhood and his experiences with cars and airplanes in video games.

            “The point at which I really knew that my interest was airplanes was my middle school science fair project where I built model airplanes to test the drag of the wings,” he said. “At that point I only grew my love of anything to do with airplanes, space, stuff like that. As of recently I’ve been moving more toward space than here on Earth, but it’s all the same stuff in terms of the work I need to do.”

            The 21-year-old Colombia native and Germantown, Maryland resident is currently studying aerospace engineering and electrical engineering at Montgomery College in Rockville, Maryland. In the context of his overall engineering interests, these two are relatively new.

            Rodriguez cited his experiences with computer gaming and his technology class in high school as reasons for his interest in electrical engineering. He said that if he were to pursue an electrical engineering career, he’d be most interested in hardware engineering, such as working with processors and graphics cards for personal computers.

            “I just like the power of computing becoming so infinitely small that you can basically get almost infinite computing from a little tiny chip and I’d love to be a part of the move towards that,” Rodriguez said. “So now that’s my dilemma: choosing between aerospace or electrical. That’s why I’m doing both. They share a lot of the same classes.”

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            After he finishes his associate’s degree at Montgomery College, Rodriguez plans to transfer to the University of Maryland, College Park to earn his bachelor’s degree. He said that he does not know which of the two engineering fields he would study yet, as he is waiting until he completes his electrical engineering degree to make that decision. Rodriguez plans to choose whichever degree he did better in while at Montgomery College.

            “Maybe it’ll be University of Maryland also for my master’s degree,” Rodriguez said. “It’ll be in a more specific field. If I do aerospace, it’ll be for propulsion engineering. If I do electrical, then it’ll be for computer/hardware engineering. From there, I’m hoping to get a Ph.D.”

            Even though Rodriguez is currently taking applied engineering courses at community college, the classes themselves are all general courses that focus on specific branches of mechanics or physics, such as statics or dynamics. However, he said that there has been at least one instance in which something applicable to his fields of interest have been used in class.

            “When I took thermodynamics, I learned about the thermodynamic properties of a turbine,” Rodriguez said. “[It] is the closest thing I’ve ever done related to my major because I actually got to work with the individual parts of a turbine and calculate the difference between temperatures.”

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            In terms of his dream job, Rodriguez said he would love to work for either Boeing in aerospace engineering or for NVidia in electrical engineering. Yet even if with an aerospace degree, he could end up working in another engineering field entirely, as much of one’s engineering knowledge can be applicable to several different engineering industries.

            “Being an engineer, you have to be open to not working in your field, you have to be open to different things,” Rodriguez said. “I may end up working as a civil engineer, even though I have an aerospace degree. A lot of the same knowledge gets applied there.”

            Carina Carino, 21, met Rodriguez in their statics class at Montgomery College last spring, as part of her mechanical engineering major. The two have been dating for nearly a year and share the same passions for engineering, technology and gaming.

            “He’s driven, but he’s also stubborn,” Carino said.

            Currently, Rodriguez works as a cashier and delivery driver for Classic Bakery in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and plans to get an engineering internship sometime soon to further his career experience. He said that as an engineer, it only gets more difficult from this point onward, but he’s willing to do whatever it takes to help innovate and better the world.

            “It’s interesting to think about how you could have a computer so powerful everybody just runs off that one computer,” Rodriguez said. “It’s very interesting to wrap my head around, the future of technology, how it can be applied.”