Madhukar Mayakonda is a 3rd year Mechanical Engineering student at Georgia Tech and a four-year graduate of The Engineering Academy at Hoover High School, where the Catapult Engineering Academy curriculum was originally developed. His undergraduate experiences include engineering and research internships with Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing, Parker Hannifin, and UAB’s Materials Processing and Applications Development Center.
Catapult: What aspect(s) of the Engineering Academy did you feel best prepared you for college?
Madhukar: The Engineering Academy teaches a variety of hard and soft skills, all of which have been invaluable to me thus far. The hard skills, such as solid modeling, MATLAB programming, statics, mechanics, machining, circuits, etc. were all taught well and with a great level of difficulty, enabling my first two years at Georgia Tech to flow by very smoothly.
The soft skills, such as presentations, technical writing, teamwork, leadership, time management, and overall communication skills, are very difficult to come by in other educational environments. These skills came in handy particularly when I began searching for internships. Possessing these skills and the ability to communicate them efficiently was vital in helping me secure internships. It does not matter how smart you are if you cannot communicate your knowledge, and the Engineering Academy taught me how to do so.
Catapult: Did you feel like you stood out in the college classroom in comparison to your classmates who did not have the background the Engineering Academy provides? If so, in what ways?
Madhukar: The Engineering Academy coursework has played a major role in helping me get through each of my major-related courses thus far. I generally spend fewer hours than my classmates studying for exams throughout the first half of a given course, because the academy has provided me with a strong background across many different topics. Therefore, I am able to spend more time focusing on the new and more advanced materials of the course. Also, I have saved most of my notes from Engineering Academy lectures, and I frequently refer to them for help on my current coursework. In fact, I have sent some to my classmates, and they too have benefited from the academy.
Catapult: Did your professors take any notice of your prior exposure to any class material?
Madhukar: In a college lecture where you are 1 out of 300 students from around the nation, it is difficult to be noticed. However, a manager at one of my past internships did take notice. At the end of my final presentation, the manager was very impressed, and asked me if there was some sort of course at Georgia Tech that prepared me for presentations. I told him to my experiences from the Engineering Academy. As a result, I have made many reliable contacts in the industry.
Catapult: Why would you recommend the Engineering Academy to a student?
Madhukar: I would recommend the Engineering Academy to every student (engineering or not), as long as they want to be challenged. For students who wish to pursue engineering, enrolling into this course is a no-brainer. For those who are unsure, the Engineering Academy will definitely help you decide. You gain knowledge that will give you a head start for college engineering courses; you gain great communication skills which will help you not only for group projects in school and work, but also for extracurricular activities around campus; you gain hands-on experience with real engineering problems, which can help you land an internship (as it did for me); you gain exposure to multiple disciplines of engineering, which is very valuable since many of them are intertwined; and finally, you develop yourself personally by challenging yourself and gaining a greater understanding of your personal capabilities.
Catapult: What was your favorite aspect of the Engineering Academy?
Madhukar: I enjoyed the immense amount of hands-on and project-oriented coursework that was provided. Throughout my four years in the academy, I gained exposure to robotics; I learned how to 3D model just about every office supply in my classroom; I built a 6-in long bridge out of paper which could hold over 30 pounds; I built a ping-pong ball launcher that was able to fire a ball to any specified distance (under 30 feet), and so much more. Every bit of engineering I learned was applied to real engineering problems, which is more than I can say about my current college coursework.