Honors mechanical engineering major Samantha Bittinger wears the T-shirt designed to honor her turn as UA's 2011 Homecoming Queen.
The pink T-shirt says it all — "Our Homecoming Queen is an Engineer."
Samantha Bittinger, the very accomplished honors mechanical engineering major who inspired its creation, would be the first to tell you that becoming UA's 2011 Homecoming Queen was not on her senior checklist. But when Dean Dale Mugler of the Honors College asked to nominate her, she said yes.
"I enjoyed the whole experience and met a lot of new people," says the Strongsville native. "People were surprised to see an engineer on the Homecoming Court and I think I got lots of votes that way. It definitely was a total surprise to me to be voted queen."
To celebrate her accomplishment, UA's Alumni Association had the shirt designed and produced for sale.
"I think it's kind of cool," says Bittinger.
Now that her royal turn is over, she's focused on her last year of classes and graduating in May 2012. To her, mechanical engineering has been an ideal fit.
You can read more about Samantha Bittinger’s internship experiences in the story: Co-ops at NASA set engineering student on new trajectory.
"I want to understand how the world around me works, and mechanical engineering is perfect for that," notes Bittinger. "There are so many practical applications that we study. It's difficult at times, but I love a challenge."
Like most College of Engineering majors, her time has been balanced between semesters of coursework and cooperative education assignments. She's had four co-ops with NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.
While she was drawn to engineering by a love of roller coasters, NASA refocused her career goals.
"I find roller coasters fascinating," says Bittinger. "They’re so well-constrained that they can be perfectly designed to create any kind of feeling for the rider. But my co-ops at NASA Glenn took me in a different direction. I've fallen in love with space. We may not have as clear a path, but we can still make great designs and optimize our systems to the best of our ability. I think the part I love most about working for Glenn is being a part of something bigger than any of us – sending Americans into space."
Even with the demands of school, Bittinger continues to make time for two interests she’s had since childhood.
"I’ve been a gymnast since I was 7, and I competed for Strongsville High School," says Bittinger. "I began coaching at age 15 and still coached back home on my co-op semesters. I also like art. My dad is an architect, so he taught me how to draw and paint early on."
Once she graduates, Bittinger hopes to join NASA Glenn.
"It's been such a positive experience for me, and it's a great place for engineers to develop successful careers. There is a lot of good work going on at Glenn."