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.”

Towson journalism and Spanish student seeks to traverse the globe

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By Billy Owens                                                744 words

Towson University journalism major and Spanish minor Katie Keogh has been passionate about journalism and traveling the world ever since she was a child and is planning to incorporate travel into her future career as a journalist.

“I’ve kind of wanted to do it in high school, just because me and my dad have been watching the news since I was a kid,” Keogh said. “We would see the broadcast journalists like Liz Cho. I always wanted to be her. Growing up watching these people in the news made me want to get into journalism. Plus I knew I wanted to do Spanish, and I figured journalism and Spanish would go really well together.”

Keogh, 20, a native of Bergen County, New Jersey, came into Towson with relatively little journalism experience. After graduating, she plans to teach children English in Spain for a year before covering global breaking news and current events as a broadcast journalist or foreign news correspondent of a news outlet based in the U.S.

“Honestly, doing something with National Geographic would be really cool even though that’s never going to happen,” Keogh said. “All of those photojournalists are really cool on social media, even doing something like, when, let’s say a terrorist attack happens in Europe, being the first journalist on the ground would be really cool. Just hearing everybody’s experiences and their take on what happened.”

Keogh credits her parents with sparking her love of travel at a young age with her family taking cruises to various Caribbean countries and resorts during her summers growing up.

“We’ve always been going on cruises,” Keogh said. “My dad’s scared of flying, so we’d only go places that were tropical. But then once I had the opportunity to go to Spain and France when I was in high school, that’s pretty much when it started and I realized that it’s something that I love to do.”

Keogh feels that her dream job would be one in which she can travel the world and experience new things and cultures. She believes that her previous experiences with travel have helped her develop an open mind and to be less judgmental of aspects of the world different from the ones she’s familiar with.

“I really like just experiencing other cultures,” Keogh said. “When I got to Spain, I remember how freaked out I was by the food there because the fish still had eyes on them. I was so grossed out, but then I realized, ‘why should I be grossed out by that? That’s just how they live.’”

Being a prospective world traveler and college student at the same time has meant that Keogh has had to be creative with her travel plans, especially considering the financial burden of travel itself.

“I’ve been looking for places that I can go to to stay for free,” Keogh said. “My best friend’s cousin lives in San Francisco so we went there together so we could stay there for free. One of my good friends moved out to California, she lives in San Diego, so I went there over the summer. My boyfriend and I just went to Florida because his dad lives there so we could go there for free. It’s just trying to figure out how to do this the cheapest way.”

Keogh believes that the most difficult aspects of travel are saving up and managing money, as well as the homesickness and fatigue of traveling that set in after a certain period of time away from home.

“Also, just deciding what to bring,” Keogh said. “Since I want to do Spain for a year after college, how am I going to pack my life up into one suitcase?”

A career as a traveling journalist appeals to Keogh not only because of the wealth of other people’s experiences she would share but the experiences she would get to live herself. She really loves landscapes and nature, citing the lavender fields of France and the cliffside view of whales in Newfoundland, Canada as some of her most memorable travel experiences, but she still has a whole world ahead of her to explore.

“I definitely want to go to Costa Rica and Cuba,” Keogh said. “I really want to go to Ireland because that’s where my dad’s family is from. Pretty much just Europe, I really want to backpack through or something. One of my friends is studying abroad in Rome right now and that looks really cool.”

Serving the public: TennisTopia’s mission to be the D.C. area’s premier tennis shop

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By Billy Owens                                                738 words

Lifelong tennis player and enthusiast Darrell Haines, 47, teamed up with his wife Amy to open a tennis shop in Montgomery County, Maryland, after owning a shop of his own in nearby Washington for 14 years.

“My wife and I loved tennis so we wanted to stay with tennis,” Haines said. “We make a great team. She grew up playing tennis, and we decided to join forces and own a tennis shop.”

TennisTopia opened its doors to the public in the bustling suburb of Rockville 11 years ago, aiming to serve both Montgomery County and the greater Washington metropolitan area’s various tennis needs.

“Montgomery County is very large and has a very large tennis base,” Haines said. “There’s lots of indoor and outdoor tennis year-round.”

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As a niche startup, the store faced difficulties regarding sustainability during the economic recession a decade ago. Several smaller tennis specialty stores in the area shut down during that period, but TennisTopia persevered.

“We were growing in the midst of that,” said Marisa Lombardo, 34, TennisTopia’s soft goods buyer, sales associate, manager and employee for nearly four years.

The store prides itself on providing customers the best service possible, taking time with them to satisfy their needs. The employees can try out all available racquets, strings, clothes and shoes– a unique opportunity granted by the store’s business representatives.

“We have the experience with them since we’ve all tried it,” Lombardo said. “We can tell you what shoe is most comfortable because of us having worn it. We want to get them their perfect fit and make it a good experience for them to come here.”

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TennisTopia’s available services include racquet stringing while you wait by Haines and other professional stringers. They also offer a racquet demo program that allows customers to try out any racquet before buying it. The demo cost is subtracted from the racquet price if they decide to buy it.

“We try and make sure they get the racquet for them, so they can bring their game and confidence to the next level,” Lombardo said.

TennisTopia offers products from the most popular tennis brands used by professional and recreational players alike, including Wilson, Babolat, Head, Prince, Nike, Adidas, New Balance and Fila. The store always tries to offer those manufacturers’ newest and best models in their current inventory, and promotes new products and sales through their social media accounts and email base.

“The majority of our business are our own customers and being able to get to know them,” Haines said. “We’re essentially their doctor for tennis.”

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The store relocated from their previous shop near Congressional Plaza in downtown Rockville to the second level of Wintergreen Plaza about a mile northwest last fall.

“It was the first time we had ever moved,” Haines said. “It wasn’t super difficult, but there was just a lot of organization and timing involved. The staff were wonderful and were a big part of why it went so smoothly.”

Located on Rockville Pike, one of Montgomery County’s busiest thoroughfares, Wintergreen Plaza is home to other specialty sports stores such as Aardvark Swim & Sport, Total Hockey and Rockville Soccer.

“We liked the location, the parking is better and it’s almost double the size,” Haines said. “This shopping center is so unique. Wintergreen is an awesome place for sports.”

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In the wake of their recent relocation, TennisTopia plans to launch an online storefront in the near future, which will allow customers to shop the store’s offerings and have their orders shipped directly to them by TennisTopia.

“The online store should be up in about two months,” Haines said. “It’s a big expansion for us.”

Being co-owner of TennisTopia for the past 11 years has been a valuable learning experience, according to Haines. He said it has taught him to be more patient with customers, taking time to talk to them and get to know them. And he has learned how to organize his time as manager and stringer along with his other duties.

“It’s rewarding knowing when you do a good job and build it up, that it’s all you and it’s your baby and your business,” Haines said. “I take the good with the bad, but once you do a good job and your customers are happy, then they come back and tell you.”