Eleanor Smith

B.S.A.E. 2023

What is your next adventure? 
I’m starting a company and taking a gap semester to volunteer in Southeast Asia. When I return in May, I’ll work for Lockheed Martin as a business development analyst in their commercial civil space sector in Denver, Colorado.

Specifically, I will go to Vietnam, Nepal, and Thailand. I'll go to various locations to volunteer and help the community. I grew up in China, but haven’t returned to Asia since I was a kid. One of my teammates from a past competition, Aaron Hammond, will do a similar trip for a year. We talked about it, and my boyfriend, who was on the same team, was also interested. We realized there would never be a better time to disappear for three months than now. I even asked my manager at Lockheed Martin and he agreed this was the time.

As for my company, I’ve designed equipment to hold the cochlear implant charger and the actual implant itself. It is in the shape of a bear to appeal to children. They can put the bear on their bedside table and hold all their accessories there. We're going to be selling directly to doctors offices, and it's specifically designed for children who are born deaf or just people who are deaf that then need cochlear implants. Cochlear implants are devices that basically give deaf people the ability to hear. It's incredible technology. I was inspired to build this for my boyfriend, Trey Farmer, because he’s deaf and has cochlear implants.

What about your next adventure are you most looking forward to?
My new position at Lockheed Martin. I think business has just been such a significant pivot for me. There's still so much to learn. It's kind of an exciting mix of things because this sector of business within the space industry requires having a technical foundation. It's neat how I still use my technical side but then apply it to business. I get to use my creative thinking a lot more, especially empathizing with people, and I also get to do a little bit of the design process.

Did you have any previous co-op, internship, or research experience in this area?
I worked with Gulfstream for two co-op rotations. I specifically asked to be on the operations side of the production of airplanes. I wanted to get my hands dirty and see the mechanics of everything, how it worked, and how it worked with people and on the floor, as in the workshop floor and the mechanic floor. I wanted to work with mechanics directly, so I asked for that position partially because I saw the Innovation Engineering and Flight division.

How did your educational experience at Georgia Tech help you to achieve your goals?
Georgia Tech also gave me a better understanding of engineering and what engineers do. It helped me to know what I truly wanted to pursue. When I went into aerospace engineering, my engineering knowledge was that engineers build things, which, to my mind, was that they designed things. I found that engineers design how to build the things that other people have already created. Engineers rarely get to do actual design work at the forefront, except in very particular positions, and then aerospace engineering, in particular, takes you way further down from building. You are the expert of this specific thing on a unique track. 

Honestly, the rigorous coursework put me where I was pushed too far. But that was so good for me because Georgia Tech has the Center for Mental Health Care and Resources (CARE) that I contacted for help. They connected me with both CARE and other resources that I needed. Eventually, I learned that I have ADHD. I figured out a few other things and how to approach how I do my work differently. It was a game-changer for me.

The cochlear implant was actually designed as a part of my industrial design minor. Industrial design has a Launchpad Expo where all the industrial design students show their work. There's a particular marketplace set aside for this class, and the whole point is you have to come up with a product, build 10 of them, and have them ready so that you can sell them to people at the Expo. It's a great concept and helps you think like an entrepreneur.

What advice would you give to an underclassman who would like to follow the same path?
Enter competitions. They give you exposure and experience that you will not get in any course except maybe the space system design, but that's so late in the coursework. And in comparison, if you enter competitions, you could be working on the cool stuff all year, four years, or five years. Competitions give you such a good foundation and understanding of missions and vehicles. And it's also a great way to test if something interests you. I could do competitions for the rest of my life. You also get as close as you can in this major to building a thing and seeing it run, and that's huge. It's awesome, and it feels great.

Secondly, get help when you need it. Use CARE services because they are wonderful.